Happy Fourth of July! As described in my book Vanished Downtown Hartford (pp. 143-144), Hartford’s First Unitarian Society built a church, known as Unity Hall, on Pratt Street in 1881. It functioned as both a church and a public hall and was used by the Unitarians until 1924. They then moved to a new building on Pearl Street, which later became Ados Israel Synagogue, and then to their current building on Bloomfield Avenue. In 1891-1892, when they were still based at Unity Hall, the Unitarians constructed a five-story brick Romanesque Revival commercial building in front of their church. It was no doubt built to provide additional income for the church to add to that gained from renting out Unity Hall. A similar move was made by the Universalist Church of the Redeemer on Main Street, when it constructed a commercial building in front of the church in 1899 (it only stood until 1906 when Travelers acquired the property). Unity Hall was eventually demolished, but the Unity Building survives today. There is an interesting article about trouble early on with the buildings foundation: see “Foundation Stones Tipped: The Pratt Street Building Trouble Laid to a Surface Drain” in the Hartford Courant, April 13, 1892. The Unity Building has a Jacobethan first-floor facade that was added in 1928.
The Cook Building is a three-story brick commercial building constructed in 1888 at 84-88 (then 36) Pratt Street in Hartford. The building was owned by Charles W. Cook, who may be the same Charles W. Cook (d. 1912) who was the partner of Charles S. Hills in the dry goods firm of Cook & Hills, which became C.S. Hills & Company after Cook’s retirement in 1896. The store was located at the corner of Main and Pratt Streets, not far from the Cook Building.
Once part of the property of the Isaac C. Lewis Cottage in Branford is a small clapboard barn with a cupola. Built around the same time as the cottage (c. 1882), the barn is known as the Toolshed. It was originally behind the house, but has since been moved closer to Thimble Islands Road and has been adapted for use as a summer cottage.
The house at 52 Main Street in Southport, known as the E. Thorp House, was built in 1792. The historic residence suffered damage from Hurricane Irene in 2011 when a beech tree in the front yard split and crashed through the roof on the left side, damaging three floors. The house was restored by Sterling Building & Restoration using antique lumber materials and carefully recreating historically accurate trim, windows and doors.
The house at 64 Fair Street in Guilford was built in 1796 by Seth Bishop. He soon mortgaged the house to brothers Joel and Nathaniel Griffing and sold it in 1801 to Captain Joel Griffing (1762-1826). His brother, Judge Nathaniel Griffing (1767-1845), lived in a similar house nearby at 6 Fair Street that Joel had previously owned. From 1802 to 1825, the south chamber on the second floor of the Bishop House (which has a ceiling a foot higher than the other rooms) and two adjacent rooms, were used for meetings of St. Alban’s Lodge No. 38, a Masonic Lodge that now meets in Branford. A history of the Lodge indicates that on several occasions, meeting were canceled so as not to disturb a sick member of the Griffing family.
While some sources (including the nomination for the Wall Street Historic District) date the construction of the Bishop Building, a two-section commercial building at 64 Wall Street in Norwalk, to 1935, an article in The Norwalk Hour, “New Woolworth Opens Friday” (September 5, 1940), provides a different timeline. According to the article, the first section of the building was constructed by William Bishop in 1928 (or was it 1923?) on the site of the old Bishop Homestead. He was born in the Homestead, which he inherited and tore down for his building, which originally had 35 offices and three stores on the first floor. It was the first office building in the city to have a passenger elevator. In 1938, Bishop was approached by the F. W. Woolworth Company to open a branch of their five-and-dime stores in Norwalk. He purchased the adjacent Ambler Block and remodeled it to become part of an enlarged Bishop Building, in which the Woolworth store opened in 1940. Woolworth would later move to another location on Wall Street. Many other businesses have been located in the Bishop Building, including WNLK radio station and Kiddytown toy store (closed in 1995). It is now home to My Three Sons.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Grove Street in Glastonbury was the home to a diverse immigrant community that included Germans, Poles and Ukrainians. Many residents worked nearby at the Williams Brothers Silver Company. A German Lutheran Church, built on Grove Street in 1902, became St. John The Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in 1925. The area was redeveloped in the 1970s and the church was in the path of a new road linking Main Street and the New London Turnpike. In 1973, developer David MacClain was given approval for a residential project to be built across from his Glen Lochen Marketplace (completed 1975). His proposal included providing a new home for the church at the corner of a new Grove Street. He only charged the church for moving fees that were within the $45,000 the Redevelopment Agency had paid for the building. The church was moved to its current address at 26 New London Turnpike early in 1974.
Sources: “Ukrainian Church, a Landmark, Seen Surviving Redevelopment,” by George Graves (Hartford Courant, August 19, 1973); “Redevelopment Agency Vows To Keep Church,” by George Graves (Hartford Courant, September 28, 1973); “Ukrainian Church Expected To Be Relocated This Week,” (Hartford Courant, February 10, 1974).