With its prominent location on Franklin Square, New Britain’s First Lutheran Church has been a notable landmark since it was built in 1906. The church began as the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church, Maria, as described in David Nelson Camp’s History of New Britain (1889):
The first regular mission of the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church was established in New Britain in the latter part of 1877. The meetings were held in the chapel of the Methodist Church, the preaching services being conducted by Rev. J. Medlander of Portland, Conn., Rev. T. O. Linell of Rhode Island, and Rev. A. P. Monten of Philadelphia. Students from the Lutheran Seminary of the latter place occasionally visited New Britain and assisted in the services. In March, 1881, the congregation or church was organized. There were different preachers for the first few months, but Rev. O. A. Landell was installed as pastor soon after the organization of the church. In 1883-85, a small but convenient church edifice was erected at the corner of Elm and Chestnut streets. The corner-stone of this edifice was laid in July, 1883, and the church was dedicated March 8, 1885. The building is of wood with a belfry and a basement, which is used for Sunday-school and for other meetings. The main audience room, including gallery, has seating capacity for about six hundred. Rev. O. A. Landell was dismissed in 1836, and Rev. O. W. Form was installed pastor September 27,1887.
Rev. Sven Gustaf Ohman, who served as pastor from 1895 to 1922, oversaw construction of the church’s current grand edifice at 77 Franklin Square. A Gothic building of light Vermont granite, it was designed by New Britain architect William Cadwell and was inspired by Uppsala Cathedral in Sweden. In 1924, the church became known as the First Lutheran Church of New Britain. In 1974, the church merged with Reformation Lutheran Church in New Britain, which had been established in 1906, to become the First Lutheran Church of the Reformation.
The church‘s two towers were originally topped by tall spires, but these were removed in 1938 because of structural weakness. By the twenty-first century, deferred maintenance over the years had led to the towers starting to become separated from the main body of the church. The prospect of an extensive restoration, requiring that the towers be dismantled and rebuilt, led the church to consider tearing down the building and starting over. An innovative and less expensive solution was found using the Cintec System, which uses stainless steel anchors instead of masonry for tower stabilization. The restored church continues to be an important part of New Britain’s architectural heritage.
David Nelson Camp (1820-1916) was an educator and author who served as mayor of New Britain for two years and wrote a History of New Britain, published in 1889. He lived at 9 Camp Street, on land that had formerly been part of the Camp Farm (no known relation). In 1869 Camp constructed a building across the street, at 10 Camp Street, to serve as the New Britain Seminary (pdf). As he describes it in his history of the city:
In 1869, in response to a written request signed by a number of leading citizens, including several members of the Board of School Visitors, steps were taken for the establishment of the New Britain Seminary. A building was erected at the north end of Camp Street, designed primarily as a school for young ladies. Before it was opened, however, the applications from the parents of boys were so numerous that arrangements were also made for a boys’ department. The school was opened in April, 1870, under the charge of David N. Camp, principal, and Ellen R. Camp and Anna I. Smith, assistants. A primary department was added in the autumn, and for many years the school, kept as a boarding and day school, was full, having pupils from surrounding towns and from other States and countries, as well as from New Britain. Mr. Camp retired from the school in the autumn of 1881, and was succeeded by Lincoln A. Rogers, A.M. The seminary was continued under the charge of Mr. Rogers until the close of the summer term in 1885. In the autumn the building was occupied by departments of the model and practice schools connected with the State Normal School, and these schools have been continued in it.
Camp also mentions the Seminary in his memoir, David Nelson Camp: Recollections of a Long and Active Life (1917):
A written request signed by a number of the leading citizens of New Britain and followed by oral communications induced me to found the New Britain Seminary. Here my daughter Ellen and I taught for several years, but my health failing, I was eventually obliged to relinquish teaching. The school was continued for some years by Mr. Lincoln A. Rogers and my daughter. The plan at first contemplated only a school for young ladies, but the urgent request of parents and citizens led to modification of the arrangement of the building, and a department was opened for boys. The school was continued with marked success for several years, but the development of the model classes connected with the Normal School made it less important that this school should be continued, and it was closed. The rooms were used by the State for classes of the Model School until the annex built for them was completed and ready for occupancy.
The old Post Office building at 114 West Main Street in New Britain was built in 1910 and was in use until the mid-1970s. The Neoclassical structure was designed by Frank S. Watmaugh of Worcester, Mass.
William H. Cadwell (1863-1941) was New Britain’s leading architect in the nineteenth century. In 1890-1891, he designed and built his own house, at 130 West Main Street in New Britain, as a gift for his new bridge, Frances Hadley (1871-1958). The ornate Cadwell House is a Chateauesque residence constructed of yellow brick, limestone and Portland brownstone with terra cotta ornamentation and slate roofs. The house is now home to the law firm of Camp, Williams, and Richardson.
The Francis H. Holmes House is a residence of eclectic design (primarily Jacobethan, with Craftsman, Shingle and Classical elements) at 349 Rocky Hill Avenue in New Britain. Built in 1906-1908, the house was designed by architect Walter P. Crabtree for Francis H. Holmes, superintendent of the Holmes & Dennis Brick Company. The brick yard, of which Holmes’s father, John W. Holmes was a partner, was located nearby in Berlin, just a few blocks south of the house. The two men were also involved in the creation of the Central Connecticut Brick Company. Fittingly, for the home of a brick manufacturer, the Holmes House features a variety of types of brick. The house once had a porte cochere on the north side. Read the rest of this entry »
The house at 201 Vine Street in New Britain originally stood on Lexington Street, across from the New Britain Museum of American Art. It was built around 1885 for Edward N. Stanley (1858-1948), president of the Savings Bank of New Britain and a director of The Stanley Works. About 1900, the house was purchased by Harris Burrill Humason (1862-1918), secretary at The Stanley Works, who had previously been renting it. He moved the house to Vine Street and added the porches. Also, please check out my recent posts on my visits to Olana (home of Frederic Edwin Church, who was born in Hartford and is buried at Spring Grove Cemetery), Cedar Grove (home of Thomas Cole) and Hudson, NY.
Polish immigrants in New Britain first formed a congregation in 1894 as a mission of St. Stanislaus parish in Meriden. The new parish in New Britain was established the following year. Originally named St. Casimir the King, its name was changed in 1896 to the Sacred Heart of Jesus parish. The first church was built on Orange Street in 1896. The current church, at 158 Broad Street, was designed by architect George P. B. Alderman of Holyoke. It was built in 1903-1904.