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. Read the rest of this entry »
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.