The history behind the craft

Winchester Lofts, the oldest new apartments in New Haven

  • Detail of decorative illustration with flowers
  • Machinists at work in Winchester factory
  • Winchester ad from 1897
  • Portion of antique Winchester ad in Spanish
  • Antique railroad ticket
  • Detail of damaged wall mural

New Haven, “The Elm City,” was founded in 1638 by English Puritans. It is the home of Yale University and has provided a perfect home for industry, starting with Eli Whitney and then Oliver Winchester.

Workers posed on sidewalk in front of Winchester factory
Workers posed on sidewalk in front of Winchester factory
Painting of Mr. Winchester
Mr. Winchester, He Is.

Oliver Fisher Winchester,

familiarly known as “Governor Winchester,” was born in Boston, MA, November 30th, 1810. In his twenties, he worked at the carpenter’s trade in various cities, becoming a master carpenter before he reached his majority. His entry into the business arena in 1834 was as a men’s furnisher in Baltimore, MD.

In 1847, he came to New Haven, CT, where he engaged successfully in manufacturing and invested in the Volcanic Arms Company, which evolved into The Winchester Repeating Arms Company.

The Winchester Repeating Arms Company’s original plant was located on Union Street in New Haven’s Wooster Square neighborhood. In 1870, the company erected its first buildings in the heart of the district and what is now Winchester Lofts.

Close-up of vintage Winchester rifle
Puritans purchased the land we now know as New Haven from the Quinnipiac Tribe.
Yale was founded in Killingworth, CT, originally in the home of Abraham Pierson (the university’s first Rector). After his death in 1707, the school moved to Saybrook, then moved a final time to New Haven, where it currently operates, in 1718.
The city planted 250 buttonwood and elm trees around the New Haven Green in the first public tree-planting program in the United States, gaining its nickname, “The Elm City.”
Antique text of New Haven, Connecticut, City of Elms
Eli Whitney graduated from Yale and went on to invent the cotton gin, which was a key invention in the industrial revolution and reinvigorated the cotton industry.
Portrait of Oliver Winchester
Oliver Fisher Winchester was born in Boston, MA, November 30th. In his early life, he worked at the carpenter's trade in various cities and became a master builder.
Winchester changed careers and went into men’s furnishings, setting up a retail shop in Baltimore, MD.
Winchester relocated to New Haven, where he engaged successfully in manufacturing and became a wealthy man. He invested in an arms company, which led to him eventually selling his stock in the men’s furnishing business to focus on the business that evolved into The Winchester Repeating Arms Company.
The company's Model '66 Winchester was a significant improvement over other repeating rifles of the day and became a very successful product. Later models of the Winchester repeater were also incredibly popular and the 1873 model was later known as "The Gun that Won the West."
Winchester product warranty
Winchester expanded facilities at its manufacturing plant at New Haven and was recognized as a leader in arms and ammunition manufacture. The name "Winchester" was becoming famous the world over as a synonym for quality, service and craft.
Site map of Winchester factory complex
Site map of Winchester factory complex
Louis' Lunch placed ground steak trimmings between two slices of toast and so began America’s obsession with the hamburger.
Entrance to Louis' Lunch restaurant
Henry Ford visited the factory and became interested in improving his own process of making interchangeable parts. After his visit he also incorporated Winchester’s methodology of progressive assembly over hand assembly, which significantly decreased production time.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana opens and apizza, New Haven-style pizza, is born.
Part of Topperweins poster and photo of Annie Oakley
Over the years a great many notable people have used Winchesters including Teddy Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill Cody, Geronimo, Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley and John Wayne.
Machinists at work in Winchester factory
The U.S. declared war on the Axis powers on December 8, 1941, entering World War II and setting into motion a series of contingency plans that the company had developed over the previous year, to change the plant’s facilities from civilian production to military production.
The United States Repeating Arms Company was formed by Winchester employees to purchase the rights to manufacture Winchester brand rifles and shotguns.
The Winchester Repeating Arms Company Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The United States Repeating Arms Company moved manufacturing from 275 Winchester Avenue to a new building at 344 Winchester Avenue.
Woodcut of Winchester factory complex
Pre-renovation interior of factory building
After the closing, the factory spaces unfortunately fell into disrepair.
On January 16th, U.S. Repeating Arms announced it was closing its New Haven plant, where Winchester rifles and shotguns had been produced for 140 years.
Aerial View of Winchester Lofts Apartments
Winchester Lofts opens. It took a team of dedicated, skilled developers with a keen vision to revitalize this storied neighborhood landmark and transform the old factory structures into the finest apartments in New Haven.
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