Camp meetings, religious revival meetings where parishioners would set up their carts and tents around a central preaching platform, were once a vital feature of frontier American Protestant Evangelicalism in the nineteenth century. Participants, freed from their daily routines, could attend the almost continuous services that often lasted several days. While Presbyterians and Baptists sponsored camp meetings, these religious gatherings came to be particularly associated with the Methodist denomination. Methodists soon introduced the camp meeting, originally a western phenomenon that flourished before the Civil War, to the east.
The New Haven District of the Methodist Church founded a campground for summer revival meetings in the west end of Plainville (320 Camp Street) in 1865. Methodist camp meetings would continue to be held there every summer until 1957. Initially tents were pitched around a central platform. Soon the Association Building was constructed, where equipment could be stored. Individual churches then began constructing 2-story cottages facing the center of the Campground, along what is known as The Circle. Nineteen of these central cottages survive today. Individual families also began to build their own cottages on the narrow avenues radiating from The Circle, replacing the tents of the campground‘s early years. Most of the cottages date from the 1880s to 1910, although a few were constructed as late as 1925. The present Auditorium building was built around 1905 in place of the original preaching platform. At one time a screened pavilion, the Auditorium is now open to the outside. The Plainville Campground Association purchased the property from the Methodists in 1957. 87 of the cottages are now private residences, the other 39 being owned by various churches. A few of the cottages have been modified for year-round use, while the rest are occupied in the summer. I have additional photos of the Campground: Read the rest of this entry »
The First Baptist Church in Plainville was organized in 1851. The Greek Revival church was erected in December of that year at 18 East Main Street on land owned by businessman Adna Whiting. He had helped establish the church, which had its first meeting at his home. The church steeple seen today is not the original.
Built in about 1882, the house at 37 Male Street in Plainville represents the last phase of the nineteenth-century Italianate style. It was the home of Frank M. Butler and his wife, Julia E. Butler. Frank M. Butler was a partner and treasurer in the carriage-making firm, Condell, Martin & Butler Company (a pdf file of the New York Tribune of October 29, 1883 reports a fire the previous day at the company’s factory in Plainville and adds “The fire was of incendiary origin.”). In 1886, Butler sold the house and moved to Holyoke, Mass. Butler’s father was the half-brother of the famous Civil War general and politician, Benjamin F. Butler.
In 1795, John Cooke purchased property (current address: 143 New Britain Avenue in Plainville) from Luther Shepard of Farmington and constructed a house/tavern (or was it already built in 1789?) for travelers along the Old College Highway. Originally it contained six rooms and a ballroom, but the building was much added to over its years as a tavern. The basement kitchen was later used as a blacksmith’s shop until 1880 and the old forge remains. In 1934, a great-great-grandson of John Cooke reopened the old tavern as a restaurant called Cooke’s Tavern. Today, the tavern is home to a restaurant called J. Timothy’s Taverne.
The brick Greek Revival style house at 105 North Washington Street in Plainville was built about 1853 by George W. Eaton. Starting out as a farmer, Eaton purchased the gristmill of Hiram Hills, eventually developing it into a commercial grain and feed mill in the 1870s. The business was continued by his sons under the name Eaton Brothers. The house has had a porch since the later nineteenth century.
Dating to about 1850, the Isaac B. Bradley House, at 2 Unionville Avenue, is one of Plainville’s best preserved nineteenth-century farmhouses. Isaac B. Bradley was born in Northfield in Litchfield in 1810 and died in 1885. In 1835, he married Martha Judd Cowles of Farmington, who died in 1847.
At 59 Whiting Street in Plainville is a late Greek Revival house, built around 1860 by J. Sanford Corbin. He ran a carriage-building shop on Whiting from the 1850s until his death in 1911.