Originally part of the Saybrook colony, the area now known as Ivoryton was annexed with the newly formed Essex in 1859. Thought of as the "wild country," it soon developed into a prosperous manufacturing village. In the late 1700's Phineas Pratt of Essex opened a workshop for the production of ivory combs. It was located near the site of the present-day factory. Ivory was in good supply due to the many ships coming into Essex harbor as a result of the Triangular Trade Route. Pratt later moved his company to Deep River and in 1847, S.M. Comstock and Geo. Cheney established an ivory business in Ivoryton. The company became a major producer of ivory products, including piano keys. In 1880 the village was officially incorporated as Ivoryton. Although not formally documented, it is a popular belief that the name was selected because "ivory" came into town by the "ton". It is the only village of that name in the world.
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By the late 1800's, Ivoryton evolved into a classic company town. Immigrants were
brought into the village to work in the factory. Many lived in the company owned
boarding house (Ivoryton Inn), and shopped at the company store (Ivoryton Store). Later, company houses were built and rented to the employees. In 1908, Comstock-Cheney
built a recreation hall where employees put on shows, enjoyed travelling vaudeville troupes and silent movies. In 1930 it became the Ivoryton Playhouse. Today it is one of the oldest self-supporting summer theaters in the Country. Although plastic keys replaced ivory in 1954 piano production continues in Ivoryton. a village whose history, prosperity, and name are a legacy of the ivory industry.
Erected by the Town of Essex
and the Connecticut Historical Commission