The Steele House at 63 Tolland Green in Tolland dates back to around 1800, although there is evidence it may have started as a late eighteenth-century saltbox. The house was once owned by Benjamin Ashley and later by Lucius Fuller. Several residents served as cashier at the Tolland Bank. The house was enlarged in the mid-nineteenth century and the original central chimney was eventually removed. The Steele House was the last of a series of inns and hotels that had served visitors on Tolland’s village Green. Run by John H. and Alice Webster Steele, it began taking guests in 1914. The Steeles operated the guest house until 1942 and owned it until 1958. Susan and Steve Beeching bought the property in 1985, renovated it and opened it in 1987 as the Tolland Inn, a bed and breakfast.
Built around 1879 for less than $2,000, Tolland‘s Old Town Hall, at 22 Tolland Green, was used for town meetings and other public events. The Victorian building served as Town Hall until 1985. In 1995-1997, restoration took place which converted it into the Arts Center of Tolland.
Elisha Steel, the son of Rev. Stephen Steel, married Sarah Wolcott, of Windsor, April 26, 1758. He graduated at Yale College in 1750, was educated for the bar, located in the town of Tolland, and engaged in the practice of his profession. He was chosen a representative in the General Assembly in 1761, and was reelected five times. He was one of the two Justices of the Peace from 1761 to 1766 inclusive. He was the first lawyer ever located in the town of Tolland, and the only one while he lived. He died August 17, 1773.
In 1719, Tolland‘s first settlers decided to build a meeting house. This simple initial structure, first used in 1723, was never entirely completed. A larger building, with a steeple and bell, was later constructed at the south end of Tolland Green. First used in 1755, it was later suprceeded by the current building, located on the west side of the Green and dedicated on October 25, 1838. In 1893, adapting to changing styles, typical Victorian-era alterations were made to the interior of the church. This included replacing the pained glass windows with stained glass. In 1977, the church was again remodeled to its original appearance and the stained glass was removed. A wing was also added at that time to the south side of the church. Declining membership in the both the Congregational and Lee Methodist churches in Tolland led to their merger as the Federated Church of Tolland in 1920. The Lee Methodist Church was dissolved in 1959 ad the following year the Federated Church was renamed the United Congregational Church of Tolland.
Built in 1822 on Tolland Green, the old Tolland County Courthouse replaced an earlier building built in 1785. Like the county jail across the Green, the courthouse was built by public subscription. It was designed by local architects Abner P. Davidson and Harry Cogswell and was built on a lot acquired from Calvin Willey, which had previously been the site of a tavern owned by Wilkes Williams. The last court session was held in the building in 1892 (the court was transferred to Rockville). From 1899 to 1985, the building housed the Tolland Public Library. In 2001, the Library gave the old building to the Tolland Historical Society. The second floor has been restored to a working courtroom appearance and there are also exhibits on the history of the building. The first floor of the old courthouse contains the library of the French Canadian Genealogical Society Of Connecticut.
Perhaps built as early as 1815 by Danforth Richmond, the building at 46 Tolland Green in Tolland served as a general store for a century and a half. Various businesses have occupied space inside over the years and at one time, manufacturer Henry Underwood had a workshop on the second floor. Other businesses included a shoe shop in the 1850s, A.W. Munger’s store in the 1860s, and J.P. Root’s store around 1900. In the mid-twentieth century, the building housed the Red and White grocery store, run by the Clough family, complete with gasoline pump. More recently, the Homestead gift and antiques shop has been located here.
Jonathan Barnes, a lawyer, was born in Southington in 1763, graduated from Yale in 1784, studied at the Litchfield Law School, and was admitted to the bar in 1789. He soon settled in Tolland, which had become a county seat in 1785. He married Rachael Steele in 1789. Barnes, who served as a town selectman in Tolland from 1798 to 1802 and in the Connecticut Legislature for twenty-eight terms, died in 1829. His oldest son, also named Jonathan Barnes, later became a prominent lawyer in Middletown. The Barnes House, at 34 Tolland Green, was next owned by Obediah Waldo, also a lawyer, who served as selectman, postmaster, town clerk, and member of the state House of Representatives. The house’s side ell was once used as an office.