Suffield’s first meeting house was erected around 1680. The Congregational Society was formally organized in 1698. A new Congregational meeting house was built around 1700. The next two church edifices are described in the Celebration of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Settlement of Suffield, Connecticut, October 12, 13 and 14, 1920 (1921):
The sills for a new Meeting House were laid May 8, 1749 and the steeple raised on August 22 following. The edifice was forty feet wide and fifty-seven long and stood north to south parallel with the burying ground. The steeple stood at the north end. . . . The fourth church edifice, the one for the past fifty years serving as the freight house at the railroad station, was built in 1835.
The current church was built in 1869. It was designed in the Romanesque Revival style by John C. Mead, a Suffield native who designed numerous churches throughout Connecticut. The First Church of Christ, Congregational originally had a tall spire on its southeast corner that blew down in the Hurricane of 1938 and was never replaced.
Hilltop Farm, located between Mapleton Avenue and the Connecticut River, just south of the Massachusetts border in Suffield, was developed in the early twentieth century as a country estate and gentleman’s farm by George Hendee, the co-founder of the Indian Motocycle Corporation of Springfield, Mass. Hendee devoted the farm to raising prize dairy cows and poultry. He developed a prize herd of Guernsey cows known as Hilltop Butterfats. In 1913, Hendee began assembling the property for his farm, which by the 1920s had grown to nearly 500 acres. His large manor house, built in 1916, was torn down in 1961 to make way for the sprawling campus of St. Alphonsus College, later occupied by the Lincoln Culinary Institute. The largest and most impressive surviving building from the estate is a massive Dairy Barn (18,700 square feet), constructed by Hendee in 1914. The architect of the manor house, Max Westhoff, may also have designed the barn, which has been called a “Monster Barn” and “Connecticut’s Agricultural Cathedral.” A two-story, Colonial Revival-style building, it is a ground-level stanchion barn with a high drive entrance. Two cylindrical silos flank the entrance on either side.
Later owners subdivided the farm. The parcel containing the barn was part of the former farm that was acquired by Pinnacle Developers in 1999. After local protest about the developers’ plans to build an assisted living facility on the land, Pinnacle sold 127 acres, including the barn, to the Town of Suffield. In 2004, the town sold 7.9 acres, including the barn and other farm buildings, to Educational Properties LLC, which owned the neighboring culinary school (aka the Suffield Conference Center). Educational Properties provided a renewable 99-year lease on the barn to the Friends of Hilltop Farm, which eventually purchased the building in 2013. The organization is restoring the barn and leases 65 acres of adjacent open space owned by the Town of Suffield. The property is now dedicated to agricultural and educational purposes.
The Second Baptist Church of Suffield was established in 1805 by members of the First Baptist Church. The original wooden church was replaced by a brick Greek Revival edifice in 1840, located at 100 North Main Street. The church was designed by local architect Henry Sykes, who had trained under Chauncey Shepherd of Springfield and Ithiel Town of New Haven. Additions were made to the church in 1953 and 1959.
The house at 161 South Main Street in Suffield was built circa 1786-1787 by Elihu Kent, Jr. (1757-1813). He was the son of Elihu Kent (1733-1814), who was captain of a militia company from Suffield that set out in answer to the Lexington Alarm in 1775. Elihu, Sr. was promoted to major in 1777. Serving with him in the militia was Titus Kent, who was owned by Elihu Kent as a slave. According to volume III of the History of the Western Reserve, by Harriet Taylor Upton, Elihu. Sr.’s son, Colonel Elihu Kent, Jr.
married Elizabeth Fitch, of Lebanon, Connecticut. He was also in the Revolutionary army with his father, and was captured by the British on Long Island and confined for a long time as a prisoner of war in the old “Sugar House” in New York, where he suffered greatly. He was a farmer after the Revolution and kept a tavern at Suffield, Connecticut. He was survived by four children.
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.