Journal completes 116th year

Always, there were and will be dogs. The building behind this handsome 1890s-era pooch is now the office of Founders Insurance in the Lakeville Historic District. Photo Courtesy Salisbury Association Historical Society

This week, The Lakeville Journal celebrates the beginning of its 117th year of publishing world and community news. In an economic climate that is unfriendly at best to print media, we feel justified in celebrating our birthday every year, rather than waiting for milestone dates. 

Click here to view a zoomable version of our first issue, published August 14, 1897.

For this issue, we’ve gathered some photos of Salisbury from the 1890s, when the first issue of The Lakeville Journal was printed and sold. The photos are courtesy of the Salisbury Association Historical Society, which has a well-organized database of some 3,000 photos that are available for public viewing. Town Historian Katherine Chilcoate can ably assist anyone in doing searches and she can provide much information on the town through the decades.

The text that accompanies the photos is abbreviated from a history of the newspaper that was written by Robert Estabrook, our late owner/publisher/editor-in-chief. It was published at full length in our centennial edition in 1997 and on the occasion of our 110th anniversary, in 2007. Anyone who would like the full text is invited to send an email request to cynthiah@lakevillejournal.com.



When Col Card of Millerton published the first issue of The Lakeville Journal on Saturday, Aug. 14, 1897, he described the new enterprise as “A Local Paper Devoted to the Interests of Lakeville and the Towns of Salisbury and Sharon.” It was the twilight of the iron industry, and both towns had started to lose population from their peaks in 1880.

Over the years, the paper’s coverage area has broadened to include six towns: Canaan (Falls Village), Cornwall, Kent and North Canaan in addition to the two original towns.

Two other papers were also added, The Millerton News (1972) and The Winsted Journal (1996).

A small, slow press

A casual reader viewing the front page of The Journal’s first issue might well have concluded that this was a national paper despite its local label. Top stories concerned the assassination of the prime minister of Spain and the “Perils of the Klondike.”

The reason for this external emphasis was that the first and last pages of the four-page issue were ready-print, a sort of boiler-plate supplied by a syndicate along with national advertising of patent medicines. Only the two inside pages contained local news.

In 1897 there was no such thing as computerized typesetting or desktop publishing. The Linotype, which cast lead into a line of type, at the time was in use by some city papers but was far beyond the resources of a rural weekly.

For The Journal it was necessary for the printer to select every individual character from a typecase by hand in order to compose a column and eventually a page of type. Thus it was a massive task to put together two local pages and then to print them slowly on a flatbed press, one or two pages at a time, at the paper’s office on Main Street opposite the Holley-Williams House.

A paper of their own

The owner, Col (for Colvin) Card, was the editor and publisher of The Millerton Telegram, who concluded that the towns of Salisbury and Sharon, with populations of about 3,500 and 2,000, respectively, needed a paper of their own. The Connecticut Western News had been started in Salisbury in 1871, the same year the Connecticut Western Railroad reached town, but the office of publication had been moved to North Canaan three years later.

Although Card financed and published The Lakeville Journal, he did not take the title of editor. The person first designated for that position was Irving J. Keyes. An article in the opening issue noted that “considerably over” 1,000 copies had been printed and said that “all the editorial and mechanical work involved has been practically done in three days by a force of one man and a boy.”

Within a few months Benjamin D. Jones succeeded Keyes as editor. B.D. Jones, as he signed himself, was to remain for nearly 40 years. He bought out Col Card’s interest in 1905 and as editor and publisher charted the course of the paper until his death in 1937.

Ben Jones chronicled the life and times of Northwest Corner communities into the emergence of electric lights and the automobile, a world war, the demise of the iron industry and finally of the Central New England Railway, and the Great Depression. He plugged away for civic improvements, especially sidewalks, and his editorials and news coverage helped lay the groundwork for the formation of the first regional school district in New England in 1939.

Jones did not live to see it, but the new district amalgamated the formerly separate high schools of six towns: Salisbury, Sharon, Canaan, North Canaan, Cornwall and Kent. The new Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village superseded them. Gradually, Jones also had installed more modern equipment, including a Linotype that vastly simplified the composition of the paper and made larger issues possible. The Journal also operated a printshop, which helped pay the salaries of additional employes.

Upon Jones’ death Dorothy Belcher (Mrs. George Belcher of Salisbury), who had learned to operate the Linotype during the Jones era, kept the paper alive until it was purchased in 1940 by Stewart and Ann Hoskins for less than $10,000. For 30 years they assumed responsibility for a struggling weekly that turned out to have only about 325 paid subscribers (now the company prints 5,500 copies of The Lakeville Journal and 2,000 copies of the Millerton News on Wednesday evenings; and 1,800 copies of The Winsted Journal on Thursday).

Pocketknife Square

By 1958 The Journal had badly outgrown its Main Street quarters. When Frederic Leubuscher rehabilitated the three-story brick building constructed in 1866 that had housed Holley Manufacturing Co., this became the paper’s new home. Ann Hoskins persuaded town authorities to rename the complex Pocketknife Square. The Journal remained there for 25 years. Advertising increased and paid circulation reached 4,000 copies per week.

After a brief unhappy sale of the paper to Robert Francis in 1969, the Hoskinses bought it back. Then the issue of Dec. 23,1970, announced the sale of The Lakeville Journal to Robert and Mary Lou Estabrook. Bob, who had spent 25 years at The Washington Post, on the editorial page and as a foreign correspondent, became editor and publisher. Mary Lou, who was a homemaker turned photographer, became associate publisher.

In 1983 The Journal was able to move to its new building at 33 Bissell St. constructed specifically as a newspaper plant. 

By that time The Journal had a paid circulation in excess of 6,500.

When the Estabrooks retired at the end of 1986 they sold The Lakeville Journal and The Millerton News to Robert A. Hatch.Hatch installed a new desktop publishing typesetting system and made other mechanical improvements. Soon after he took over, however, the area plunged into a lingering economic recession that cut severely into advertising and circulation revenues and forced consolidation of some news functions. In addition, he was beset by serious ill health.

After trying to sell The Journal and The News for several years, Hatch reached an agreement in early 1995 with a group of local investors headed by William E. Little Jr. and A. Whitney Ellsworth, whose objective was to keep the papers independent and locally controlled. The sale was concluded in June 1995, with Will Little becoming the chairman of the new limited liability company and Ellsworth, former publisher of the New York Review of Books, first as publisher, then as managing partner. 

Apart from consolidating operations at The Lakeville Journal, the company concentrated on reviving The Millerton News as a distinctly separate publication. Also sensing a need for an independent community newspaper in Winsted, the company launched The Winsted Journal in 1996. 

Janet Manko succeeded James Timpano as associate publisher of all three publications and in February 2005, she was appointed editor-in-chief in addition to publisher of all the Lakeville Journal Company publications. 

In 1998, the company launched its Web site, tcextra.com, which is now www.tricornernews.com.

21st-century changes at The Lakeville Journal

The past few years have seen tremendous changes here at The Lakeville Journal Co. In 2011, the company lost two of its guiding lights when Whitney Ellsworth died in June of that year and Bob Estabrook died in November.

Three years before that, in 2008, the company made the momentous decision to no longer print on the premises here at 33 Bissell St. The four-bay Goss Community Press that the Estabrooks had purchased (and built the building around before moving the company here in 1983) was sold to a company in Brooklyn, N.Y. 

The Lakeville Journal is now transmitted electronically on Tuesday afternoons (for The Lakeville Journal and Millerton News) and Wednesday afternoons (for The Winsted Journal) to Trumbull Printing (owned by Hersam Acorn Newspapers) in Trumbull, Conn. The papers are printed there and then delivered to Lakeville by truck within 24 hours. This has created greater efficiencies in producing the papers, has enabled us to print in full color and makes it possible for readers to get the print edition on Wednesday evening.

Chairman William E. Little Jr. has continued to offer support, guidance and encouragement and the investor group has grown beyond even its original size. We feel confident moving into our 117th year with the support of Will Little, Dr. Michael Alderman, John Baumgardner Jr., Wendy Curtis, Norman Dorsen, Anne Ellsworth, Priscilla Ellsworth,  John Estabrook, Albert Gottesman, Keith Johnson, Elaine LaRoche, Helen Yee Little, Eleanor Owens and John Rhodes. 

Most important of all of course is the support of the community, not just our faithful and often-outspoken readers but also the many talented writers, photographers and illlustrators who so generously share their work with us. 

— Cynthia Hochswender and Janet Manko

Photos Courtesy Salisbury Association Historical Society

G. W. Hall’s general store in Lakeville later became a Ben Franklin store. It was to the immediate right of the road going onto Community Field. All photos are courtesy of the Salisbury Association Historical Society, which has a database of about 3,000 images of Salisbury through the centuries. Visitors are welcome to come in and visit the society at its office on Main Street in the Academy Building (across from Town Hall) weekdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information and to learn about upcoming talks and exhibitions, go to www.salisburyassn.org/historical-society.

The Stuart Motion Picture Theater was on Ethan Allen Street in Lakeville in the early 1900s, on the site that is now home to Mizza’s Pizza. The theater burned down on Christmas Day in 1958. The edge of the building you see on the left side of the photo is now On the Run.

The Selleck grist mill in Salisbury (now a private home) is on the Mount Riga Road.

Bissell’s store on Main Street in Lakeville is now the home of Argazzi Art. In 1897, the small flat-roofed portion of the building on the right side in this vintage photo was the home of The Lakeville Journal.

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