Fill The Spot: 88 State Street

Space in the Cronin Building once held a shoe store and farm supplier

Like several other downtown buildings, this small State Street storefront retains a clue to its past in lettering on the doorstep. It's only by looking up that you see that it is a separate entity wedged into the corner of a much larger building.

The storefront at 88 State Street contains a simple symmetry, with two display windows flanking a doorway. An empty sign hangs on the facade, while paper covers up the window and a long-faded notice from the city's Building Department is posted in the door. The engraving at the doorstep read's "ohn Irvin Shoes."

The walls on either side of the door have apparently encroached on this mark, since this address once held John Irving Shoes. It dates back to at least 1935, when the store advertised a "Dollar Days" sale on shoes, handbags, and pantyhouse. Before that, the storefront held Lyon & Ewald, which sold everything from hammocks to fishing tackle.

These stores were all located in the Cronin Building, which was built in 1892. The structure before it probably has the more intriguing history. The Cronin Building replaced the City Hotel, which was destroyed in an 1891 fire. Before that, the hotel saw a brief visit from Abraham Lincoln during his 1860 campaign.

In more recent years, the Cronin Building has been subject to a whirlwind of changes. Donald Lumadue, a local businessman, sold it to Cabrini Inc., the development arm of the New London Development Corporation, in 1998. The purchase was part of a vast downtown improvement plan which included converting the Cronin Building into off-campus residences for Connecticut College students with retail space on the first floor. The building, along with others purchased as part of the effort, was ultimately auctioned off at a loss in 2002.

According to city records, the sale was made to the entity Cronin Building LLC in 2002 before it the structure was transferred to New London Phoenix LLC in 2004. The latter corporation is managed by Evan Blum of New York City, who owns the architectural salvage business Irreplaceable Artifacts. The business has its main location in Manhattan and a showroom in Middletown, while the Cronin Building is still used for storage of salvaged materials. However, the city condemned the Cronin Building in 2004 after determining that Blum did not have the proper work permits after beginning renovation work.

New London Landmarks now has the building as one of the four in the city it considers endangered. It would require a hefty investment before anything could open in the space, which is next door to Caruso Music. What would you like to see here? Let us know in the comments.

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