Commemorating 125 years of Bristol commerce


Dozens of historical photographs depicting the city of Bristol were spread out on the desk of Jim Albert, the president and CEO of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, as he prepared for the 125th Annual Dinner. One of the photographs showed the property of Ebenezer Barnes, the first permanent settler in Bristol.
“One of the things we have to remember is where we came from and who brought us here,” said Albert, who assembled the pictures with the help of the Bristol Historical Society and the Bristol room of the city’s library.
The dinner, scheduled to take place next week, will feature a silent auction— a variety of items for guests to bid on, including nearly 50 of these historical photographs that date back to different centuries. The dinner celebrates the 125th anniversary of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, and will include a special presentation on the history of the city as well as recognition of the chamber’s five founding fathers: John Sessions (president), Edward Ingraham (vice-president), Edward Dunbar, Carlyle Barnes and Carlos Virgil (C.V.) Mason.
“The founding fathers are still here—their families are still here, their legacies are still here, the gentlemen who started the chamber…also started all the banks in town, the water company, the electric company…they paved the roads, they built the first schools, they did everything you could imagine to turn an agricultural area into a modern city with all of the industrial heritage we have experienced,” said Albert.  “You can see their work everywhere in town.”
Founded in 1889, the Bristol Chamber of Commerce was originally called the Bristol Board of Trade before its name changed in 1915. The board aimed to “promote the interest of Bristol, to aid in the protection and development of all legitimate enterprises, to unite the energies and influence of all citizens in matters of public welfare, and to secure uniformity of opinion and action, and cooperation among its members to this end,” according to the chamber’s website.
In 2003, the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce began to expand the area it benefited and to assist more members. Besides Bristol, the Central Connecticut Chambers consists of other affiliate chambers, including Bloomfield, Burlington, Farmington, Wolcott, and Plymouth/Terryville.
Two of the founding members, Barnes Group and C.V. Mason, serve as remaining members of the chamber as their locations still stand on Main Street, Bristol.
Albert said these families have contributed greatly to the “quality of life, the economic development, and the political life of the city and the region.”
“When you drive around town, you still see the remnants of all the founding families,” said Albert, adding how three families of the Board of Trade’s five originators will be recognized at the dinner. “This recognizes our heritage as a manufacturing and financial center and it fits in perfectly well with the 125th anniversary of the Chamber of Commerce.”
Besides celebrating the rich heritage of Bristol, the dinner also will recognize a number of community and business leaders who have also made contributions to the city.
Ken Crowley, who began his business in 1971 and has served on the Board of Directors for the Bristol Chamber, is the recipient of the E. Bartlett Barnes Distinguished Service Award.
Originating in 1934, the Pepsi Cola Bottling Co. of Bristol, which has adopted an environmentally friendly approach to everyday business functions through their Green Initiatives, will receive the Distinguished Business of the Year Award.
Stephens Automall Centre, which has supported a number of organizations such as Wheeler Clinic, the Bristol Boys and Girls Club and Family Center and the United Way of West Central Connecticut, is the recipient of the Service Business of the Year Award. Non-profit, United Way organization Bristol Adult Resource Center, Inc., which has offered services to people with developmental disabilities for over 57 years, will receive the Small Business Award.
TEAM Bristol, a volunteer group that has organized affordable events that bring the community together, including the annual Car Show & Craft Fair, will receive the Sprit of Bristol Award.
Shepard Meadows Therapeutic Riding Center, Inc., which offers professionally led equine activities in an accredited setting for children and adults with physical, cognitive and emotional challenges, will receive the Special Service Award.
The Dental Hygiene Program of Tunxis Community College, which has offered tens of thousands of hours of dental service to the local community and beyond, will receive the Health Care Services Award.
“We’re really celebrating that entire history, and then we’re also going to be celebrating the resurgence—the future of the city,” said Albert.
Donald Padlo, a lifelong resident of Bristol, will receive the Volunteer Award after years of service to the community. Padlo has not only been a part of the Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency, but he has also served as commissioner for the Bristol Department of Public Works as well as chairman of the Sewer Board, where he resolved sewer rate adjustments and supported staff recommendations to reduce nitrates and phosphates from treated sewage waste.
Linda DiMatteo, executive assistant to the president, and vice president of events and administrator of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, said all recipients serve as the perfect examples of community leaders and businesses that have made major contributions to the city of Bristol in their own way.
DiMatteo added that Bill Englert, the former member of TEAM Bristol who passed away this year, will also be honored at the event with a single rose placed at each table. The event will also remember Tedd Scheidel Jr., who once served as First Selectman to the town of Burlington.
“Each one of them are so deserving,” said DiMatteo. “We have the most giving and charitable groups.” “It just amazes me that even when times are tough, people are there to help out.”
The 15th Annual Dinner will take place Tuesday, June 17 at the Aqua Turf Club, 556
Mulberry St., Plantsville. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. with a reception and auction, followed by dinner and the presentation of awards.
Comments? Email lcapobianco@Southington