East Great Plains Fire Company

Plaque sponsored by the East Great Plains Fire Company

Located on New London Turnpike at West Main Street

Once upon a time in Norwich, behind this site, stood the poor farm and the mental asylum for which Asylum Street was named. Norwich’s first poor house was on lower Washington Street. As the city prospered, successful merchants, bankers, manufactures and sea captains built mansions of Washington Street, forcing the poor farm to this site.

One March 12, 1876, at 2:00 a.m., a fire was reported. The facility, having been deliberately removed to this remote section of town, burned before help arrived. Sixteen mental patients, locked in their rooms, were unable to escape and burned to death. In this field, most of those bodies are buried.

The poor farm was rebuilt and used for many years. Those who died there without friends or family, numbering well over 100, are also buried beneath this field in unmarked graves. In later years, mental patients were cared for at the Norwich State Hospital. The poor farm was ultimately abandoned, sold and was again destroyed by fire in 1956.

Van Tassel Explosion

Plaque sponsored by the City of Norwich

Located at Central Headquarters on West Main Street

In 1962, a terrible explosion took the lives of four Norwich firemen. It was the worst loss of lives in the history of Connecticut among firemen at a single fire.

Today, at Central Fire Headquarters, there is a monument to the memory of Captain William J. Sheridan, Fireman Carl J. Burke, Fireman Leonard M. Counihan and Fireman Edward Romano who gave their lives in the performance of their duties at the Van Tassell Warehouse fire on April 3, 1962.

A historic photo of the event, taken by Bob Dick, then photographer for The Norwich Bulletin, shows Fireman Thomas LaFreniere, who survived the explosion, heading back into the fire to rescue his buddies. He was suffering severe shock, and Police Sgt, John Sisco was able to overtake LaFreniere and escort him to safety.