In the nineteenth century, Salem was home to what is considered to be the first music conservatory (the first degree-granting school of music, or at least music teaching certificate-granting school) in the United States. Founded around 1835 by Orramel Whittlesey, son of the local Methodist minister Rev. John Whittlesey, the school was first called Mr. Whittlesey’s School, later the Salem Normal Academy of Music, and eventually the Music Vale Seminary. Young women from all over the country came to attend the school. After its original rambling classroom building burned down in 1868, it was replaced by an elaborate Italianate structure. The school closed soon after Whittlesey’s death in 1876 and the main building was destroyed by fire in 1897. The school’s large barn, built c. 1849, does survive. It is typical of an “English barn,” a type also called a side-entry or eave entry barn, a “thirty by forty” (based on its dimensions), a “Yankee barn” or a “Connecticut Barn.” The school‘s farm played an important role for the institution, supplying animals and crops. The Bodman family later owned the Music Vale property and donated much of it to the Salem Land Trust. The barn is now part of what is known as Music Vale Farm. Read the rest of this entry »
Austin F. Williams (1805-1885), a leading abolitionist in Farmington, was a member of the defense committee that worked to secure the freedom for the Amistad captives in 1841. Before returning home to Africa, the Mendi captives stayed in Farmington (March through November, 1841) while funds were raised for their return journey. Williams constructed a building on his property where the male members of the group lived. The building was later used by Williams as a carriage house. The picture below shows the west side of the carriage house-the section visible from Main Street-which was not added until after the Mendi departed from Farmington.
Built the same year as the 1837 Eli Curtiss House on North Street in Watertown is a combination carriage house and barn. With a current address of 60 North Street, this large structure is now a multi-family residence.
In the colonial period, Connecticut residents were required by law to attend all-day church services on Sunday. Meeting Houses were unheated and a mid-day break allowed people to eat and warm up before the afternoon services. For those who lived too far away to return home during this break time, towns sometimes built small “Sabbath Day Houses” where they could take shelter. Several Sabbath Day Houses were once located on Durham Green, but were taken down as the attendance requirement ended at the start of the nineteenth century. One surviving structure, built around 1780, was moved to Indian Lane in Durham and converted into a residence. Facing destruction in 1966, it was moved back to the Green and restored by the Durham Historical Society.
A description of Durham’s Sabbath Day Houses is related in William Chauncey Fowler’s History of Durham (1866) as follows:
These houses were from twenty to twenty-five feet in length, and from ten to twelve feet in breadth, and one story high with a chimney in the middle dividing the whole space into two rooms with a partition between them, for the accommodation of two families, who united in building the house. The furniture consisted of a few chairs, a table, plates and dishes; some iron utensil, it may be, for warming food which had been cooked. Besides the Bible, there was sometimes a book on experimental religion, like Baxter’s Saints’ Rest, or Allein’s Alarm. On the morning of the Sabbath the mother of the family with provident care, put up her store of comforts for the dinner, substantial or slight fare as most convenient, a bottle of cider almost of course. The family then set off from their home in a large two horse sleigh, or on saddles and pillions. They stopped at the Sabbathday house, kindled a blazing fire, and then went forth “to shiver in the cold during the morning services.” At noon they hurried back to their warm room. After they had taken their meal and by turns drank from the pewter mug, thanks were returned. Then the sermon came under review, from the notes taken by the father of the family, or a chapter was read from the Bible, or a paragraph from some favorite author, the service concluding with prayer or singing. After again visiting the sanctuary, the family would return to the Sabbath-day house if the cold was severe, before they sought their home. The fire was then extinguished, the door was locked, and the house remained undisturbed during the week.
In time the custom of repairing to these houses changed; the houses themselves became dilapidated or furnished a refuge for the poor. They were better suited to those times when so much was thought of private family religion, than they would be to ours, when religion has become more of a public and social concern. The last Sabbath-day house which I remember, stood on the land owned by the first minister. It was occupied by John King, a Hessian deserter from the British army. It was owned by one of the Nortons. The present writer can recollect as many as half a dozon of these houses. They grew up out of the type of religion which existed at that time. It was a family religion, rather than a public one.
When the Lord & Taylor at Bishops Corner in West Hartford (later a Caldors and now the location of Marshalls and other stoes) was built in the early 1950s, it replaced the Dutchland Farms restaurant and ice cream shop (which by then was known as Dutchland City). The restaurant’s building was notable for the prominent windmill above its front entrance. The building was taken down, but the windmill survives. An article in the Hartford Courant of July 13, 1952 (“Bishop’s Corners Windmill Moved To Pool At Nursery”) describes how the seven ton windmill was removed from atop the building and transported to its current home at Gledhill Nursery, 660 Mountain Road in West Hartford. The article notes that the windmill had been a familiar site for 20 years, so it would have been built c. 1932. Dutchland Farms was a chain and some of its other restaurants also featured ornamental windmills of various sizes.
In Martin Park in East Hartford the town’s Historical Society maintains a complex of three historic buildings. One of these is the Burnham Blacksmith Shop, built c. 1850, which originally stood on the Burnham family farm. Today, the building contains a collection of nineteenth and early twentieth century tools and equipment used in the East Hartford area.