St. Mary Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church in New London began in the 1840s, serving Irish workers from a storefront on Bank Street. Soon, St. John’s parish was formed and a chapel was erected on Jay Street. In 1855 a new church, St. Patrick’s, was consecrated on Truman Street. The parish acquired a large lot at the corner of Washington and Huntington Streets in 1866 and the following year work began on a new church, designed by Patrick Keely of New York. The parish was renamed St. Mary Star of the Sea in 1874 and the new church was completed and dedicated in May, 1876. The church tower was built in 1911.
Constructed in 1868 as a grand new three-story commercial block with classical detailing, Bacon’s Marble Block is located at at 128 State Street in New London. It was built by Morris W. Bacon, manager of the Pequot & Ocean Transit Steamship Co., who ran a billiard hall in the building. The structure’s original cornice was replaced with a mansard roof before 1901. Beatrice Cuming, a painter, lived and worked on the building‘s upper floors in the 1930s and 1940s. In more recent years, the building sat derelict for twenty-five years, but was then restored with commercial space on the first floor and apartments above. Bacon’s Marble Block also features a faded Uneeda Biscuit sign. The building next door, at 140 State Street, was built in 1873.
The house at 258 Bank Street in New London was built in 1833 (or as early as 1817?) with granite quarried from the ledge behind the building, known as Tongues Rock. Sailing ships would tie up at the shore at this granite outcrop. The building was constructed as the home and whaling office of Benjamin Brown, who produced soap and candles. According to an article (“Pioneers of Tilley Street Prominent in City Affairs,” by R.B. Wall) that appeared in the New London Day on February 13, 1815:
Benjamin Brown was a prominent figure in the whaling industry and he also had a slaughter house and candle factory. He cured beef and pork and shipped it in barrels to other places. After buying the Canada house in Tilley Street he bought considerably more land adjoining ion the west bounds. On this vacant land he used to store hundreds of barrels of oil while waiting for the market to advance. Benjamin Brown was a native of Waterford and came to New London a poor and friendless boy. The building connected with his enterprises once occupied the site of the coal ad lumber business of the F.H. & A.H. Chappell Co. in Bank street. His stone house alone remains on the east side of Bank street, opposite Tilley.
Brown’s property once extended to the water behind the house and had a well that supplied whaling and merchant ships. The house survived a fire that started during the 1938 hurricane and devastated Bank Street.
Happy Easter! St. James’ parish in New London began with a small group of Episcopalians in 1725. Their first church was a wooden building on New London’s Parade, opened in 1732. It was destroyed by fire when New London was burned in 1781 during the Battle of Groton Heights. Samuel Seabury (1729–1796), consecrated in 1784 as the first bishop of the American Episcopal Church, served as rector of St. James from 1785 until his death in 1796. He is now buried in the current (third) St. James Church. The second church was consecrated in 1787, but by the mid-nineteenth century a larger building was needed. By that time the parish had grown significantly and included some of New London’s wealthiest and most influential families. The third St. James Church, located at the corner of Huntington and Federal Streets, was built in 1847-1850. It was designed by the famous architect Richard Upjohn, construction starting just a year after he completed Trinity Church in Manhattan. Starting in 1910, St. James’s original stained glass windows were replaced by six new memorial stained glass windows designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.
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.