In the 1890s, a group of Slavic immigrants, who had settled in Bridgeport, sought to leave the Greek Catholic Church (affiliated with Rome) and join the Orthodox Church in America. After meetings with Fr Alexis Toth (canonized in 1994 as St. Alexis of Wilkes-Barre) and Bishop Nicholas of San Francisco, Holy Ghost Orthodox Parish was established in 1894. The church was dedicated on Palm Sunday, 1895, with Fr Toth celebrating the first Divine Liturgy. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia donated six bells to the church. They had been cast in honor of his coronation in 1896. Upon arrival in New York, the bells were held up in customs for payment of a large import duty, but a special bill was passed by Congress and signed by President McKinley allowing the bells to enter the United States duty free. The parish grew and a new church was built at 1510 E. Main St and dedicated on Palm Sunday, 1937. It was rededicated in 1981, with the sealing of the relics of St. Herman of Alaska, brought by His Grace, Bishop Gregory of Sitka, Alaska, replacing the missing relics of St. Barbara.
In 1900, Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants in Bridgeport formed the Greek Catholic St. John the Baptist Church and in 1907 purchased property for use as a church at 717 Arctic Street, near Hallet Street. Beginning in the 1920s, there was tension within the church and with the Catholic hierarchy in Rome over the issue of married priests. St. John’s defended married clergy and joined in the action of a Congress of Churches in Pittsburgh that severed all relations with the Roman Catholic Church. A new Orthodox church was thus created, called the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church. Back in Bridgeport, a group of Uniates, who remained loyal to the Roman Catholic Church, sued to gain control of St. John’s church property, which they reoccupied in 1944. This Greek, or Byzantine, Catholic St. John’s Church relocated to Trumbull in 1976. The Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic St. John’s Church, now denied the property on Arctic Street, constructed a new church in 1944-1946 at 364 Mill Hill Avenue in Bridgeport. The church successfully defended against another Catholic civil suit to obtain this new property in 1947. The interior was expanded and renovated in 1956-1959.
Formed in 1919, Emanuel Synagogue in Hartford was Connecticut’s first Conservative congregation. In 1920, members dedicated its first synagogue in the former North Methodist Church on Main Street. With a growing membership, the congregation purchased farmland on Woodland Street in Hartford’s Upper Albany neighborhood. A new synagogue, designed by Ebbets and Frid, was completed in 1927. Emanuel Synagogue’s cemetery is located on Jordan Lane in Wethersfield. By the 1950s, with many Emanuel members having moved to West Hartford, the synagogue purchased land on Mohegan Drive and built a social hall and religious school there in 1959. Services continued to be held at Woodland Street until 1968. A new Emanuel Synagogue was completed on Mohegan Drive in 1970. The former Hartford synagogue is now Faith Seventh Day Adventist Church.
Russian Village is a historic district, located between Route 6 and the Pomperaug River in Southbury. It was established in 1925 by a group of Russians who had fled to America after the Russian Revolution in 1917. Count Ilya Tolstoy, the son of Leo Tolstoy, discovered the area during a visit to his translator in Southbury. Siberian novelist George Grebenstchikoff then led the establishment of a community there, intended as a seasonal cultural center for Russian writers, artists, musicians and scientists. The village was named Churaevka, after a Siberian village mentioned in Grebenstchikoff‘s works. The community, established by, but not limited to, the creative intelligentsia, remained a predominantly Russian community into the 1980s. The main building in the Village is a chapel dedicated to St. Sergius. A stone building, it was designed by philosopher and painter Nicholas Roerich, financed by helicopter inventor Igor Sikorsky, and built in 1932 – 33 with labor volunteered by village residents, including Ivan Wassileff, a stone mason. The Chapel was also intended to be a memorial to the Cathedral of Our Savior in Moscow, which was destroyed by the Soviets in 1931 and has more recently been rebuilt. Since the Chapel itself is too small to contain a congregation, there is a small amphitheater with curved stone benches just outside, facing the Chapel. In 1931, the Chapel was deeded to the Roerich Museum in New York and later to the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
This is Historic Buildings of Connecticut’s 900th post, excepting the two April Fools posts, which some people have taken too seriously! What is that famous quote often attributed to P.T. Barnum? Well, with that in mind, let’s keep to the Barnum theme! The Barnum Museum is a place worth celebrating in an anniversary post, as it is a surviving legacy from one of Connecticut’s most important historical figures. P.T. Barnum had his famous American Museum in Manhattan, but this later burned. Barnum built four successive mansions in Bridgeport, where he served as mayor in 1875, but only a few traces of these survive today. The museum in Bridgeport which today bears his name was built in 1893 as the Barnum Institute of Science and History and originally housed a resource library and lecture hall. The building, which reflects the influence of Byzantine, Moorish and Richardsonian Romanesque architecture, was constructed of stone and terra cotta after Barnum‘s death using funds he had bequeathed for the purpose. The original societies which occupied the building ceased operation during the Great Depression and the city of Bridgeport assumed ownership in 1933. In 1943 the museum was closed for remodeling, reopening in 1946 as a city hall annex. In 1965, the city offices were removed and the building was again remodeled to reopen as the P. T. Barnum Museum in 1968, with exhibits about Barnum and the history of Bridgeport. The museum, which since 1986 has been operated by the Barnum Museum Foundation, was renovated in 1986-1989 and is today the only museum dedicated to the life of P. T. Barnum
In 1951, a time of Soviet persecution of Ukrainian Catholics in their homeland, Ukrainian exiles settling in the New Britain area founded Saint Josephat’s Ukrainian Catholic Parish. The growth of the parish led to the purchase, in 1955, of a former Assyrian Church on Beatty Street, soon enlarged with materials from a dismantled six-family building from East Hartford, that had been purchased by the parish. In 1966, a house was purchased on Eddy Glover Boulevard to become a rectory and, in 1974, there was a ground breaking on the same Boulevard for the building of a new church. The church was designed by the James P. Cassidy architectural firm of West Hartford and parishioners of St. Josephat’s provided most of the labor for its construction. Completed in 1975, the church has three gold and blue domes, copied from those in St. Sophia Church of Holy Wisdom in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. In 1985, St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Catholic parish and St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox parish worked together in having a new section of Route 9 through New Britain named the Taras Shevchenko Expressway, in honor of the great Ukrainian poet. In 1991, the parish celebrated the independence of Ukraine from the old Soviet Union.