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.
The origins of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church in New Britain go back to the late nineteenth century (New Britain’s first Ukrainian immigrant arrived in 1889). Many of the Ukrainians who settled in New Britain and elsewhere in the United States (such as the coal regions of eastern Pennsylvania) were from Transcarpathia and Galicia. Transcarpathia is a region of the Carpathian mountains which includes parts of modern Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine. Galicia (named after the city of Halych) is the western section of modern Ukraine. Early on, in New Britain, the Halychany (Galicians) attended Holy Trinity Byzantine Catholic Church, a Ruthenian Church, whose leadership and clergy were dominated by Carpatho-Rusyns, also known as Uhorsky Rusyny, or Rusyns (Ruthenians) who had been living in the Austro-Hungarian Empire under Hungarian rule. Conflicts between the two groups led to a riot in the church in 1908 and the decision of the Galicians the following year to form their own parish. Initially holding services in rented space in the basement of Sacred Heart Church on Broad Street, the new parish soon constructed St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, on the corner of Winter and Clark Streets. It was built in two stages. The basement section, designed by the architects Unclebach and Perry, was dedicated in 1911. With the growth of the parish, the upper structure, designed by Clarence Palmer, was built in 1915-1917. The Eastern Basilica-style church was later repaired, after being damaged by a fire in 1973.
The Carpatho-Rusyn people come from from the region of the Eastern Carpathian Mountains in Europe, an area where today the borders of Ukraine, Slovakia, and Poland meet. Many Carpatho-Rusyns (also known as Ruthenians) were members of the Ruthenian Catholic Church, a Greek Catholic Church which is in communion with Rome, but which uses the Byzantine liturgical rite. Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants in New Britain founded the Holy Trinity Byzantine Catholic parish in 1900. A small wood-framed church was built on Beaver Street in 1901. After this building burned in 1909, a second wood church was constructed in 1910. With the parish growing, resources were gathered to build a larger church on the same site. The present steel and brick structure, designed by Hartford architect Frederic C. Teich, was completed in 1928.
Carpatho-Russian immigrants settling in New Britain founded SS Cyril and Methodius Othodox Church, built on Beatty Street in 1902. In 1913, the old church was sold to a Greek Orthodox parish and a new and larger church building, on Washington Street, was consecrated to the Holy Trinity. The church’s missionary work in the region led to the founding of other Russian Orthodox parishes, including All Saints Orthodox Church in Hartford in 1914.