At 181 Bank Street in New London is a former house that now has a commercial facade on the ground floor. The house was built in 1790 for Jonathan Starr, whose earlier house, built in 1702, had stood on the same site. Starr operated a lumber yard that was located right across the street from his home. From 1914 to 1996 the Starr House was used as the James Drug Store and more recently has housed a restaurant, an antiques store and a hair salon.
The Bank of Commerce of New London was chartered in 1852 and became a national bank in 1864. As related in A Modern History of New London County, Connecticut, Volume 2 (1922), edited by Benjamin Tinkham Marshall:
The first business transactions of the bank were in the office of Williams & Havens, whaling merchants, on October 14, 1852, when notes aggregating $11,000 were discounted—a fair day’s business for an infant institution. Subsequently the bank obtained permanent quarters in the second story of the Union Bank building, at the present location of the Union Bank and Trust Company. When the Crocker house building was constructed, the National Bank of Commerce took a lease of its present location for fifty years from April 1, 1872.
The directors, desiring to furnish their patrons with the best convenience and comforts for transacting business, decided to erect a building which the bank would occupy at the expiration of its lease of the Crocker house quarters, or earlier if possible. To this end a lot was purchased on State street, next east to the First Baptist Church, extending around the church, with a frontage on Washington street as well as on State street, and the present fine home of the National Bank of Commerce is the result of its decision to own its own home.
Baptists in New London first organized a church in 1710 and constructed a meetinghouse on Niles Hill, called the “pepperbox” because of its unusual hip-roofed shape. This church broke up in 1771, but a Baptist church was reformed in 1792, formally organizing in 1804 as the First Baptist Church. Local resistance thwarted their attempts to buy land for a new meeting house and the Baptists had to resort to subterfuge to acquire land at the corner of Union and Pearl Streets. As related in Frances Manwaring Caulkins’ History of New London (1856):
The church which now bears the designation of the First Baptist Church of New London, was constituted in February, 1804, by a colony of about fifty members from the Waterford Baptist church, most of whom resided within the limits of New London. [ . . .] The position chosen for their house of worship, was a platform of rock, on a summit of the ledge that runs through the central part of the city. It was commenced in 1805, and was occupied nearly ten years in an unfinished state; the beams and rafters left naked, and with loose, rough planks for seats. The interior was then finished, and the whole edifice has since been enlarged and improved. [. . .] In 1847, under the ministry of Rev. Jabez S. Swan, the members of this church amounted to six hundred and twenty-five, probably the largest church ever known in New London county. It has since colonized and formed another church. The number of members reported in 1850, is four hundred and five.
This rapid growth of the First Baptist Church led to the need for a new church, which was built at the corner of State and Washington Streets in 1856. The Romanesque Revival edifice was designed by W.T. Hallett, who also designed such other New London buildings as the City Hall (original facade) and Lawrence Hall (since demolished), both also built in 1856. The interior was not completed until the 1880s and the church’s stained glass windows were dedicated in 1892. The window on the State Street side was added in 1931.
The building at 42 Bank Street in New London was built in 1833 in the hope that it might be used as a federal customs house. In the end the building, which resembles a Federal and Greek Revival-style row house, became home to the Whaling Bank. The bank, the third oldest in New London, was founded in 1833 by a group of whaling merchants that included Joseph Lawrence. It became the National Whaling Bank in 1864 and remained in existence until 1943.
In 1879, Universalists in New London purchased land at the corner of Green and Starr Streets (formerly the site of the Stoll Marble Yard) to construct a church. Formed in 1835, the Universalist Society had previously built a church on Huntington Street in 1843-1844, which it occupied until 1849. They then purchased a former Episcopal church on Main Street, which they later sold, holding services in Allyn Hall until their new church was ready. Constructed under the direction of builder John Bishop (a member of the church who built many houses on neighboring Starr Street) and his brother Charles, the church was completed and dedicated in 1882. It was sold to the Brainard Lodge of Masons in 1896. Since 1997 it has been the Apostolic Cathedral of Hope. The windows were closed up in 1909, but have recently been restored with modern replacements.
Mary Stillman Harkness her husband Edward Harkness were philanthropists who had a mansion in New York City and a summer estate in Waterford called Eolia. Mrs. Harkness, who was a fiend of Katharine Blunt, president of Connecticut College from 1929-1943 and 1945-1946, gave the college a residence hall: Mary Harkness House, completed in 1934. In 1938 she also provided funds to build a chapel and an endowment for its upkeep. Harkness Chapel, which has a granite facade, was designed by architect James Gamble Rogers in a style he called “colonial Georgian.” Rogers was the Harkness family’s favorite architect and Mrs. Harkness was intimately involved in the details of the chapel’s construction. The nondenominational Harkness Chapel was consecrated January 14, 1940.
The former home of the Savings Bank of New London, now used as a branch of Citizens Bank, is located at 63 Eugene O’Neill Drive in New London. The Savings Bank of New London was incorporated in 1827. Offices were located in the Union Bank & Trust Company’s building on State Street until the Savings Bank built its own building on Main Street (now Eugene O’Neil Drive) in 1852. This building was expanded with two wings in 1890. The current facade dates to the period of 1903 to 1905, when the earlier building was completely enclosed by a new structure, designed by Dudley Saint Clair Donnelly, an important New London architect. The bank has an elaborately ornamented exterior of “Milford Pink” granite from Milford, Mass. The facade is slightly curved to conform with the curve in the street.