Way Back When: When Main Street featured mom-and-pops
The Hurlbutt Building was a two-story brick building which stood approximately at the site of today’s two-story brick Gault Building between Jesup Road and Taylor Place on State Street (the Post Road).
Built in the early 1860s, the Hurlbutt building housed a variety of business and public institutions over the years, including the Westport Post Office and William E. Sturges and Sons’ shoe sales and repair shop. The second floor was home to the Westport Reading Room and Library Association (later becoming the Westport Library) for the first 10 years of its existence until it moved to the lower level for a further 12 years when the new library building was completed across the street.
William E. Nash also operated the drugstore he owned — Nash’s Apothecary and Patent Medicine — out of No. 4 Hurlbutt Building from the late 19th to the early 20th century.
Nash sold common drugs, everyday items of convenience such as brooms and soap and penny candies from his candy counter which attracted kids from all over town. Also in his retail product line were items that could be used for agriculture or home use which were considered hazardous poisons.
As part of the Westport Museums collections, we hold Nash’s poison register which spans from 1881-1913 and records the names of customers, what materials they purchased and in what quantity. Items which were tracked included arsenic, strychnine and corrosive sublimate.
One notable entry is for Paris Green, a dye which contained arsenic and was commonly used, at one time, to dye fabrics for women’s clothing. The Nash Poison Register book is currently on display in the Westport Museum’s exhibit Taking The Cure.
For more information visit westporthistory.org. The Westport Museum for History & Culture has been a cultural and educational organization dedicated to preserving, presenting and celebrating the history of Westport since its founding in 1889.