Across Church Street from the old Railroad Depot in Wethersfield (the subject of yesterday’s post) is an old factory building erected c. 1880. Early on, the factory was occupied by Hopkins & Chapin and then Bailey Manufacturing (aka Bailey & Co. book binders). The Elmer Tool Company occupied the building until c. 1914. It then remained vacant until 1919, when it was acquired by the National Machine Company (see “National Machine Co. Has Option on Wethersfield Plant,” Hartford Courant, October 18, 1919). It had remained in or had returned to an abandoned state by September 3, 1927, when the Hartford Courant ran a story: “Eight Boys Accused Of Vandalism: Charged With Having Damaged Abandoned Plant of National Machine Co. on Church Street.” It was reported that the boys tore slate off the roof, broke windows, stole a telephone and caused other damage. The following year the factory was acquired by the Gra-Rock Bottling Company. In 1980 the building became home to Clearing House Auction Galleries, a company operated by the LeClair family since 1955. Not long after the death of the company’s president, auctioneer and appraiser Thomas G. LeClair, in 2011, his sister decided to close the business. Earlier this year the Wethersfield Wetlands Commission approved a development proposal to convert the old factory for residential and commercial use and to erect a new building with 30 condominiums behind it.
St. Mary’s Catholic Parish in Branford traces its origins to 1855. The original church, located on Montowese Street, was built in 1854. The next church building, on Main Street across from the Blackstone Memorial Library, was completed in 1904 and burned later that same year. It was restored and rededicated on October 19, 1906. A Renaissance Revival structure, it had a 10-story bell tower. On June 18, 1972, the church was destroyed in a fire and replaced by the current church in 1974. For many years the church’s 1917 two-ton cast bronze bell, which survived the fire, sat on a concrete slab on the church grounds. In 2009 the bell was restored and placed in a new exterior bell tower. That same year the church dedicated a new 2,500 square-foot social hall.
The commercial building at 969-985 Main Street in Manchester, called the Cheney Block, was built in 1899. It was the successor to the old Cheney Brothers general store which was located on the southeast corner of South Main and Charter Oak Streets and burned in 1898. The new building’s location, between Maple and Oak Streets, contributed to the shift of the town’s commercial district northwards to a former residential area. Many businesses, as well as the South Manchester Post Office, have occupied the Cheney Block over the years. The building has lost its original roof-top balustrade.
In 1877 the Town of Windsor decided to construct two town halls, one at Windsor Center and the other at Poquonock. Town meetings were held in the two buildings in alternate years. In 1920 the building in Windsor Center became the sole Town Hall. It was located on the northwest corner of Broad and Maple Streets. It was demolished in 1967 for a parking lot after the current Town Hall was built in 1965. Facing the Windsor Center Green, the Windsor Town Hall was designed by Louis J. Drakos & Associates of Hartford and was built by Matthew J. Reiser of Elmwood, N.J.
On the other side of the street from the City Mission building (yesterday’s post) is the former Ados Israel synagogue at 215 Pearl Street in Hartford. Designed by Milton E. Haymon, the Georgian Revival structure was erected in 1924 for the First Unitarian Church. Hartford’s First Unitarian Society was formed in 1844 and had two previous churches/meetinghouses: the Unitarian Church of the Saviour (1846), which stood on Trumbull Street, and Unity Hall (1881) on Pratt Street. In 1962 the Unitarians sold the building on Pearl Street and in 1964 dedicated the new Unitarian Meeting House on Bloomfield Avenue.
Congregation Ados Israel, Hartford’s oldest Orthodox Jewish congregation, was first organized by Eastern European Jews in 1872. In 1898 the Congregation built a synagogue on Market Street. This architecturally impressive building was demolished in 1963 to make way for Constitution Plaza. Ados Israel then moved to the former Unitarian building on Pearl Street. Ados Israel was Hartford’s last synagogue when it closed in 1986. Neighboring TheaterWorks acquired the building in 2002.
Before the Blackstone Memorial Library in Branford was erected in 1893, a house on the site that belonged to Lester J. Nichols was torn down to make way for the new building. Nichols, who was a director of the Malleable Iron Fittings Company, then built his new Georgian Revival house, designed by William H. Allen, at 730 Main Street. Lester Nichols was born in Middlebury in 1849. He is described in the second volume of A Modern History of New Haven and Eastern New Haven County (1918):
Reared in New Haven, Lester J. Nichols was educated in the city schools until the age of seventeen years, when he went to Branford and secured employment with the Malleable Iron Fittings Company as shipping clerk. Later he became accountant and subsequently he represented the company on the road as traveling salesman, and in 1902 was chosen secretary, in which office he has since served. On joining the company in 1866 there were only sixty employes [sic], but at the present time there are over thirteen hundred. The business has steadily grown until it has now assumed extensive proportions and it ranks among the leading industrial concerns of New Haven county. Mr. Nichols is one of the five directors of the company and all of the men at its head are good reliable business men who command the confidence of those with whom they have dealings.
On the 8th of December, 1870, Mr. Nichols was married in Branford to Miss Alice E. Cook, a native of Branford [. . . .] Since starting out upon his business career he has been identified with but one concern and has labored untiringly for its interests with most excellent results. As the years have passed prosperity has come to him and he is now one of the substantial as well as one of the most highly esteemed citizens of Branford.
A less respectful lens on Nichols’ private life can be found in a piece entitled “Nichols ‘Niece’ Talk of Branford,” that appeared in the Bridgeport Herald of December 1, 1907.
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.