The historic houses in Granby have sheltered many prominent individuals, but none more so than those along Salmon Brook Street. As you drive south past the center green, you’ll notice a large American Gothic-style house on your right. It is the former family home of Connecticut attorney and President of Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company, James Lee Loomis.
In the early 1900s, James Lee Loomis was working out of his father’s store, the general store in the center of Granby, and was getting bored. He had received his bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1901 and wished to do more. When he asked his father if he could go to law school, the senior Loomis said, “If you go, you are going to pay your way.” Loomis was accepted into Yale Law School and would go on to become a prominent Connecticut attorney.
To pay for his education, he rented two apartments in New Haven and rented rooms to freshman students. After his second year of law school, Loomis took a job collecting delinquent accounts for the Hartford Businessmen’s Association. His work impressed Lucius Robinson, a well-known attorney in Hartford, as well as a member of the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company. After Loomis graduated from Yale Law and passed the bar in 1905, he started work in a small law firm. However, Robinson kept in touch with Loomis and, in 1909, persuaded him to join Connecticut Mutual as an assistant secretary.
Loomis excelled as Assistant Secretary and would climb the corporate ladder, becoming vice president of the company in 1919 and, seven years later, president. In his 19 years at the helm of Connecticut Mutual, he increased its value from $67 million in assets to $724 million. He helped the company survive not only the Great Depression of the 1930s but also the Second World War. From working in his father’s general store to president of the sixth largest insurance company in the country, James Lee Loomis was a true Granby success story.
In 1945, Loomis retired as president and became chairman of the board for four years—but his contributions did not stop there. His involvement with several organizations included being on the Boards of Directors for the Phoenix and Fire insurance Company, Hartford County Mutual Fire Insurance Company, First National Savings Bank, Simsbury Bank and Trust Company, the Colt Manufacturing Company, the Hartford Courant, and president of the Board of Trustees at the Loomis School in Windsor.
While Loomis served on those boards, he remained loyal to his hometown with his involvement and leadership with the Granby Cemetery for many years. As Polly Hall wrote in her chapter of The Heritage of Granby, “The person having the longest and closest association with the Granby Cemetery is James L. Loomis. He has been an incorporator, shareholder, lot owner, Treasurer, President, and legal advisor.” He would invite the Directors of the Cemetery to his cow barn (see note) and have a supper before their annual meeting.
Want to learn more about James Lee Loomis? Join the Salmon Brook Historical Society and help celebrate its 75th year as an organization. Contact us at salmonbrookhistoricalsociety.com or 860-653-9713.
Editor’s Note: The “cow barn” was the Loomis’ outdoor living room and it was shared for all sorts of community events including ice cream and strawberry shortcake socials.