A subscription library was started at a store in West Suffield in 1812. The Town of Suffield’s first free public library was established in 1894. Sidney Albert Kent, a Chicago businessman who was originally from Suffield and who had attended the Connecticut Literary Institute (Suffield Academy) donated $35,000 in 1897 to build a library as a memorial to his parents, Albert and Lucinda Kent. The building opened in 1899, but by the 1960s had become far too small for the expanding library’s needs. The old library was sold to Suffield Academy to raise funds for a new Kent Memorial Library, which opened in 1972. Considered to be a landmark of modernism, the new library building was designed by Warren Platner, an architect and interior designer known for his Modernist furniture of the 1960s. The library was in danger of being torn down in 2008, but residents voted in a referendum against demolishing the building and replacing it with a newer and bigger one (see pdf file: “Modernism at Risk.”). Construction will begin this summer on a handicapped-accessible addition to the existing library.
Mapleton Hall, at 1305 Mapleton Avenue in Suffield, was constructed in 1883. First known as Central Hall and located on Crooked Lane, which was soon changed to Mapleton Avenue, the building was used as a meeting hall for town government and farmers’ associations. As described in Celebration of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Settlement of Suffield, Connecticut, October 12, 13 and 14, 1920:
A strong community spirit has characterized the people residing in that part of the town long known as Crooked Lane and later as Mapleton. Early in the seventies they began to hold Lyceum and Farmers’ meetings in the old brick school house at the foot of the hill. It became too small for the interesting meetings and in the winter of 1879-80 a public hall was suggested. This sentiment quickly grew and at a meeting early in 1880 a committee consisting of Cecil H. Fuller, Arthur Sikes and Edward Austin was appointed to draw up articles of organization and agreement. They were presented at a meeting at the school house April 16, 1880, and an association organized. The articles of agreement were accepted and the following officers elected: president, Edward Austin; secretary, John L. Wilson; auditor, Dwight S. Fuller; trustees, Cecil H. Fuller, Henry D. Tinker and D. D. Bement. In the next two years enough money was raised so that the construction of Mapleton Hall was begun in the spring of 1882. It was ready for use in January of the next year and was dedicated January 16 with exercises that included an “old home week.” At first it was called Central Hall, but the name was later changed to Mapleton Hall. In 1896 a large addition was built to meet the requirements. All debts are paid and the association has money in the treasury.
The old Lyceum and Farmers’ meetings were continued in the new hall till 1885, when the Grange was organized to take their places. The organization occurred February 19, 1885 with Henry D. Tinker, master, Arthur Sikes, secretary and George A. Austin, lecturer. From that time till the present the organization has held meetings twice a month. When organized there were twenty-eight charter members; the membership is now two hundred.
Mapleton Hall later fell into disrepair but was restored over twenty years by the Mapleton Hall Association. Since 1978 it has been the principal performing space of the Suffield Players, who purchased the building in 1999.
Hugh Mead Alcorn (1872-1955) of Suffield, the son of Irish immigrants, was educated Connecticut Literary Institution (now Suffield Academy) and studied law with the Hartford firm of Case, Bryant and Case. He was elected to the state legislature in 1903 and served as state’s attorney for Hartford County from 1908-1942. He prosecuted the famous Amy Archer-Gilligan poison murders of 1913-16, which formed the basis for the famous play and movie Arsenic and Old Lace. Alcorn’s Colonial Revival house, at 300 South Main Street in Suffield, was built in 1902. The house was later enlarged by Alcorn’s son, Robert Hayden Alcorn (1909-1980), who was the author of such books as No Bugles for Spies: Tales of the OSS (1962) and The Biography of a Town: Suffield, Connecticut (1970). Hugh M. Alcorn had two other sons who became lawyers and politicians: Howard Wells Alcorn (1901-1992), who served as Chief Justice of the Connecticut Sppreme Court from 1970-1971, and Hugh Meade Alcorn, Jr. (1907-1992), known as Meade Alcorn, who was the Republican leader in the Connecticut General Assembly in the 1940s.
At 2 South Grand Street at its intersection with Mountain Road in West Suffield is a building consisting of two attached sections. The oldest part of the structure dates to circa 1750. For many years the building was the Terrett House Hotel and tavern. In 1837, the first post office in West Suffield was operated out of the Terrett House, the tavern-keeper serving as the postmaster. The Terrett House was where the second murder in Suffield history took place. As reported in the Hartford Courant on October 28, 1862 (“Murder at West Suffield”):
James Drake, keeper of a hotel at West Suffield, was shot dead on Saturday afternoon by a man named Cullen, a cigar maker, who works at Westfield, but whose family resides at West Suffield. It is said Cullen has allowed himself to be jealous of Drake, (but probably without cause), and has threatened his life on several occasions. Saturday afternoon he came home, and with a loaded revolver went directly to the hotel of Drake, for the purpose of shooting him. He fired two shots into Drake while he was behind the bar, but neither of them proved serious; the latter then ran out of doors and around the house, pursued by Cullen; and as he was again entering the door, a third shot entered his heart, proving fatal
Cullen was soon arrested. The hotel seems to have changed hands a number of times. On April 12, 1904, the Courant noted:
The West Suffield Hotel, better known as the Terrett House, has again changed hands, Alanson Hoffman having sold out his interests to Landlord F. Hart of North Bloomfeld. A telephone service has been added and other improvements have been made.
The Courant reported another sale on March 8, 1910, by Patrick J. Murphy to Charles C. Anderson, “who has had charge of the Buckngham Stables in Springfield for several years.” In 1915, Anderson and James Mitchell, proprietor of the Suffield House, another tavern, were fined $150 each for selling liquor on May 2 to 20-year-old William A. Coulson, who later that same night killed John Wardosky with his automobile while under the influence of liquor. Coulson was charged with manslaughter and pleaded no contest. The tavern-keepers’ fine included the additional charge of “permitting a minor to loiter about their places of business.” (“Liquor Drinking Up Suffield Way.” Hartford Courant, June 10, 1915). An owner in 1990 spray painted the building florescent orange to vent his frustration at bureaucratic red tape that had stalled his efforts to renovate the building to become and arts and crafts mall! A later owner restored it as a multi-family home.
At 60 South Main Street in Suffield is the house built in the Federal style for Charles Shepard in 1824. Shepard was a lawyer who practiced in Suffield from 1820 to 1829 and in Hartford from 1830 to 1850. He also represented Suffield in the state assembly from 1826 to 1828. The house was later home to the Fuller family. According to “The Town of Suffield,” by David E. Tarn (The White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs, Vol. VII, No. 6, December, 1921):
The Charles Shepard house is distinguished by its very graceful porch, of which the balustrade, however, would appear to be a later addition. The general proportions of this house, and especially the pitch of the roof, are distinctly of Connecticut.
For Halloween I’m presenting an appropriately Victorian house, the Italianate-style Charles F. Loomis House in Suffield. Located at 257 North Main Street, the house was built in 1862 for a member of the wealthy Loomis family. For more images of the house and a discussion of its architecture, check out this post at the blog The Picturesque Style: Italianate Architecture.