HARTFORD — Local optician group Harvey & Lewis will celebrate its 130th anniversary this month, marking 13 decades of providing quality eye care to the Hartford community and beyond said a release from the company.
Founded February 1, 1890 by Foster Harvey and Robert H. Lewis, Harvey & Lewis has been a steadfast presence in Hartford since its’ inception. With their original location at 23 Asylum Street in Downtown Hartford, the company has continued to maintain a presence within one block of their first location ever since. Foster Harvey had apprenticed with another optician, Horace Wood, beginning in 1882 when he was just 16.
Their office, located on the second floor of Whittlesey Clothiers, is where Lewis became a clerk the following year. The two founders became fast friends and opened their optical store seven years later at the ages of 22 and 23. In 1893, the store had moved around the corner to 865 Main Street, where the business began to thrive. By 1906, they had opened locations in New Haven and Springfield and expanded into the emerging business of photography, selling both “Cameras and Kodaks.”
By the 1920s, the pair split the business with the Lewis family, taking the Hartford location, which was being run by Richard B. Lewis, Sr. The business continued to grow, expanding to six locations with stores in Bridgeport, New Britain and Worcester. In 1927 they built the Harvey & Lewis Building at the corners of State and Main in Downtown Hartford. It was the center of the city across from the Old State House and the Isle of Safety.
On the second floor of the building were four gargoyles each depicting a product or service provided at the shop — one with sunglasses, one with a camera, one with binoculars and one with broken pair of glasses. The gargoyles are now on display at the Downtown Hartford location at 45 Asylum Street. Tragically, only several months after the building opened, Robert Lewis died leaving his son Richard B. Lewis, Sr. in charge at the age of 34.
By the 1950s, the business had moved to Pearl Street, added stores in Hartford Hospital and West Hartford and Richard B. Lewis, Jr. had taken over running the business upon the death of his father. In 1956 Norman Rockwell used it as the backdrop for his Saturday Evening Post cover entitled “New Glasses.” The painting remains an iconic image for the optical industry and is displayed in many stores throughout the country. The boy, Steven Nesko, remained a Harvey & Lewis customer until his passing in 2018.
The 60s and 70s saw sweeping changes in the industry with the advent of plastic lenses, which allowed for the production of larger frame styles. Contact lenses also came on the scene around that time. Stuart Lewis took over from his cousin Richard in 1980 and continued to expand the business with locations in Glastonbury and Bristol. He also added in-store eye examinations and re-vamped the laboratory system where all of the lenses are still ground.
Today, James Lewis, along with fellow fourth generation members, Bill Wood and Jeanne Lewis, are at the helm of the business.
In recent years they have added stores in UConn Health Center, Canton and Enfield.
For more information visit www.harveyandlewis.com or call 860-522-2020.