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Photo Archivist's Selection of the Month: February/March 2002

The C.O. Miller Company

Appended May 2008

photo of Mr. C.O. Miller
caption to photo on the left

In our November 2001 Selection, we promised a feature on the C.O. Miller Company, the downtown department store.

At the time, we thought of showing pictures we have of the outside of the store, as well as items from the Vertical File collection. But then, this writer stumbled across the invaluable Guide to Nature Magazine, and sure enough, there is an article in the November 1917 issue, on the occasion of the 50th business anniversary, with plenty of interior photos, and the usual inimitable text!

Thus, this feature is a combination of items we have in our archives.

The store was a fixture in Stamford for 106 years. It was founded in 1868. The store was originally located at 53 Main Street. The next location was at Washington Place by September 1870.

From a postcard, ca. 1900Then, in 1882, a new store was built on Atlantic Square, 53 Atlantic, as seen on the right. Attached is a photocopy of the architectural rendering for the store. Major additions and changes to the store were made in 1916, as described in the Guide to Nature article below.

The store moved to 15 Bank Street in 1933, where it remained until its closing in 1973. A newspaper article in the Advocate reports that this was caused by the fact that its adjoining warehouse had to make way for construction of the Bell Street Garage during the downtown urban renewal process.* At that time, C.O. Miller was no longer a family business, but was owned by Supermarkets General Corp. of Woodbridge, NJ and named "The C.O. Miller clearance department store," so declining business may have been the real cause for the closing. Earlier, the name had been changed to "Howland," part of Genungs's Incorporated, a section of the above Supermarkets General Corp., according to a Stamford Advocate article dated September 14, 1970. A sad end for a once great store!

*Addendum May 2008: Google Maps Satellite photos show that the entire structure is still there. See also The C.O. Miller Department Store at 15 Bank Street.

Society member Lester Sharlach, a Stamford native, tells us that one of the impressive features of the Bank Street Store which he remembers, was a pneumatic tube system, by which the cash from the individual registers was moved upstairs to a central cashier's location. They seem to have been innovative early on, as they had an overhead Lamson Electric cash system with drop stations already by 1916. (see below)

Any Stamfordite who has recollections, stories and/or is willing to donate or loan photos about the C.O. Miller Store, is encouraged to contact The Stamford Historical Society, either by mail (1508 High Ridge Road, Stamford, CT 06903), fax (203-322-1607), or e-mail to the webmaster We will gladly scan or otherwise reproduce any photos loaned to us.

Now back to the olden days. Here are some of the first flyers:

Grand Opening Winter 1868/69 Spring 1869
Advertisement Flyer Advertisement Flyer Advertisement Flyer

Once established, their ad dominated the cover of the Stamford City Directories for many years, such as the one in 1900 below left.

1900 City Directory cover While we do not have any images of the first two store locations, there are plenty of the store on Atlantic Square.

It was tough to make a selection, so here a the most interesting ones. Note the progressive addition of buildings on Atlantic Street towards the south.

circa 1885, store building at far right

circa 1885, store building at far right

Early 1890s
Early 1890s

Picturesque Stamford 1892: C.O. Miller

1913. Section of Town Hall & Citizens Savings Bank at right
1913. Section of the Town Hall and the Citizens Savings Bank at right

1920s. Town Hall and Corner of Main Street at right
1920s. Town Hall and Corner of Main Street at right

For more on the Atlantic Square store, see these entertaining features below from Guide to Nature Magazine.

C.O. Miller portrait, thumbnailPhilosophy and Photographs in a Store. 1912.

The Development of a Big Store.1916.

Completing Fifty Years in Business,. 1917.
“The Remarkable Half Century Success of Mr. C. O. Miller as Evinced in the Astonishing Development and Present Prominence of The Miller Store.” (By the editor himself, no less.)

Though “hale and hearty at threescore years and ten” in 1917, Mr. Miller passed away in 1919. Obituaries.

A sneak photo preview. Enjoy!
thumbnail of store photos thumbnail of store photos thumbnail of store photos thumbnail of store photos thumbnail of store photos
thumbnail of store photos thumbnail of store photos thumbnail of store photos thumbnail of store photos

Of the Bank Street store, we have two aerial views from about 1948, photographed by Senix Aerial of White Plains:

1948 aerial view of Bank Street building
In the background: Atlantic Street with St. John's Roman Catholic Church.
1948 aerial view of Bank Street building
At left: Main Street, with Stamford Savings Bank. The Little Red Bank, and the Old Town Hall towards the top of the photo.

… and of a later date, most likely in the 1960s, another photo taken from Bank Street

1950s view from Bank Street

Note, May 2004: The date, originally assumed to be of the 1950s, has been narrowed down by Kit Foster of the Society of Automotive Historians. He writes: “In the photo at the bottom of your January 2002 page is a 1963 Mercury Colony Park station wagon, so the picture cannot be earlier than October 1962. The Volkswagen, of course, is timeless…”

Images © Stamford Historical Society

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