A subscription library was organized in West Hartford in the eighteenth century by members of the Congregational Church. This became officially the West Hartford Public Library with town funding in 1897. The library remained at the church until 1917, when the first Noah Webster Memorial Library building was dedicated at 7 North Main Street. The building was also used for meetings by local clubs and organizations as well as the Town Council. This first library was soon outgrown and a new building on South Main Street was dedicated in 1938. Since then the old library has had various tenants, most recently Fringe Hair Works of West Hartford.
West Hartford’s first bank, the West Hartford Trust Company, opened in 1926 and located at 4 North Main Street at the corner of Farmington Avenue. One of the building’s architects, Milton Hayman, was known for his Colonial Revival designs. The bank merged with Connecticut Bank & Trust Co. in the 1930s and today is a branch of Bank of America.
Renbrook School in West Hartford, a private school for children age 3 through grade 9, began in 1935 when several area families decided to start a progressive school. Originally named the Tunxis School, it was first located in a rented house on Albany Avenue in West Hartford. Within months it moved to a larger house at the corner of Farmington and Outlook Avenues and was renamed Junior School. In 1937 the school erected its own building on Trout Brook Drive. By the mid-1950s the enrollment had increased and the school needed to expand again. The next move would be to the estate called Renbrook. This was the name given to the West Hartford mansion built (c. 1931) by famed aviation engineer Frederick Rentschler and his wife Faye Belden Rentschler. Frederick Brant Rentschler (1887-1956) co-founded Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in 1925. In 1929 he purchased 80 acres on Avon Mountain and soon constructed a Tudor Revival/French chateauesque mansion on the site. After Rentschler‘s death his estate announced it would lease the mansion to a worthy non-profit. The Junior School was chosen and in 1958 moved to its new home, also taking the new name of Renbrook School. Read the rest of this entry »
An Ecclesiastical Society to serve the West Division of Hartford (now the Town of West Hartford) was first established c. 1712. A series of meetinghouses have stood in the vicinity of the intersection of Main Street and Farmington Avenue in West Hartford Center. The original meetinghouse, erected c. 1712, was replaced by a new one, erected between 1742 and 1744. The Society’s next three meetinghouses reflected changes in architectural taste during the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century. In 1834 the Society voted to erect a new building that was designed in the fashionable Greek Revival style. In 1882, the congregation moved into their fourth building, called the Greystone Church, a granite edifice designed by George E. Potter in the popular Gothic Revival style. By the early twentieth century, the Colonial Revival was dominant and plans for a new building in that style were already underway when the Greystone Church was destroyed in a fire on January 3, 1942. The basement floors were completed by November 1943 and services were held there until the sanctuary of the new First Church of West Hartford was built in 1946, after delays caused by material shortages during World War II. The chapel was built in 1956.
In 1911 the First Company Governor’s Horse Guards became Troop B Cavalry, Connecticut National Guard. Troop B soon began construction of a privately funded armory (with stables and drill shed) at 836 Farmington Avenue in West Hartford. The plans were provided by architects and troop members A. Raymond Ellis and Francis E. Waterman, who made the building very functional without extra features in order to keep costs down. Built in 1912-1913, the armory was soon officially acquired by the state. The unit served along the Mexican border in 1916 and in World War I as a Machine Gun Battalion. By the late 1930s mechanization was bringing an end to horse cavalry in the US Army. In 1940 the unit became part of the 208th Coastal Artillery Regiment and the Armory was converted to store large vehicles. After the War, the First Company Governor’s Horse Guards was reorganized as a state militia unit and today has a facility in Avon. The Army continued to house various units in the West Hartford Armory until the early 1980s, when the building was decommissioned and sold by the state. It was then extensively altered for use as professional office suites.
At 821 Prospect Avenue, just across the Hartford city line in West Hartford, is the circa 1880 Queen Anne house first owned by Henry Wood Erving (1851-1941). The house is located next to one built in the same style for Erving’s brother, William Augustus Erving. Henry W. Erving, vice president of the Connecticut River Banking Company, was also an author and antiquarian who gathered one of the first great collections of American furniture. Read the rest of this entry »
Continuing the theme of the last few days of Catholic institutions in and around West Hartford, today we feature the former Mount St. Joseph Academy at 235 Fern Street (now One Hamilton Heights Drive). It served as a Catholic Girl’s School, run by the Sisters of Mercy, from 1906 to 1978. The Sisters of Mercy also run the nearby St. Mary’s Home for the Aged. The cornerstone of Mount St. Joseph Academy was laid in August 1905 and the school opened for the Fall term in September, 1908. The building was designed in the Georgian Revival style by John J. Dwyer of Hartford and built by William F. O’Neil. In the frieze of the entrance portico are inscribed the words BONATATEM ET DISCIPLINAM ET SCIENTIAH DOCE ME DOMINE (“Teach Me Goodness and Discipline and Knowledge, O Lord”), the school’s motto. When the Sisters of Mercy started St. Joseph’s College in 1932, classes met at the Academy for several years before being transferred to its own campus in West Hartford (now the University of St, Joseph). The former school was renovated in 1996 to become an assisted living facility called Atria Hamilton Heights.