Cultural Heritage Tours


Downtown Tour

The Downes News Company

123 Church Street/The Exchange Building


Storefront, c. 1870s. Courtesy Paul Keroack.

Michael and Bridget Kenney Downes and their two-year-old son William emigrated to the U.S. from Ireland in 1827. They settled in New Haven in 1832. Michael Downes was New Haven’s first news dealer, selling local and New York papers on the street and later from a shop on Church Street. For two cents patrons could sit in the shop’s back room and read the New York papers. When Michael died in 1845 his two elder sons, eighteen-year-old William and sixteen-year-old Edward, took over the news shop, which was primarily operated by Edward. William soon took up the trade of bookbinding and with a partner opened a bookbinding business on Chapel Street near Orange Street. Edward Downes was the sole owner of the News Company from 1852 to 1873. In 1850 he moved the shop to the Exchange Building, a Greek-Revival building built in 1832. The firm experienced reorganizations and partnerships within the family before being dissolved in 1891. Edward’s sons Alfred and Edward Jr. were graduates of Yale Law School and Edward Jr. served as New Haven’s City Clerk and as the State Department’s Consul General to Amsterdam before entering the priesthood, resuming a vocation he had abandoned to take care of his mother and siblings when his father died.

  • Text source courtesy Paul Keroack.

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