Baptists in New London first organized a church in 1710 and constructed a meetinghouse on Niles Hill, called the “pepperbox” because of its unusual hip-roofed shape. This church broke up in 1771, but a Baptist church was reformed in 1792, formally organizing in 1804 as the First Baptist Church. Local resistance thwarted their attempts to buy land for a new meeting house and the Baptists had to resort to subterfuge to acquire land at the corner of Union and Pearl Streets. As related in Frances Manwaring Caulkins’ History of New London (1856):
The church which now bears the designation of the First Baptist Church of New London, was constituted in February, 1804, by a colony of about fifty members from the Waterford Baptist church, most of whom resided within the limits of New London. [ . . .] The position chosen for their house of worship, was a platform of rock, on a summit of the ledge that runs through the central part of the city. It was commenced in 1805, and was occupied nearly ten years in an unfinished state; the beams and rafters left naked, and with loose, rough planks for seats. The interior was then finished, and the whole edifice has since been enlarged and improved. [. . .] In 1847, under the ministry of Rev. Jabez S. Swan, the members of this church amounted to six hundred and twenty-five, probably the largest church ever known in New London county. It has since colonized and formed another church. The number of members reported in 1850, is four hundred and five.
This rapid growth of the First Baptist Church led to the need for a new church, which was built at the corner of State and Washington Streets in 1856. The Romanesque Revival edifice was designed by W.T. Hallett, who also designed such other New London buildings as the City Hall (original facade) and Lawrence Hall (since demolished), both also built in 1856. The interior was not completed until the 1880s and the church’s stained glass windows were dedicated in 1892. The window on the State Street side was added in 1931.
In 1879, Universalists in New London purchased land at the corner of Green and Starr Streets (formerly the site of the Stoll Marble Yard) to construct a church. Formed in 1835, the Universalist Society had previously built a church on Huntington Street in 1843-1844, which it occupied until 1849. They then purchased a former Episcopal church on Main Street, which they later sold, holding services in Allyn Hall until their new church was ready. Constructed under the direction of builder John Bishop (a member of the church who built many houses on neighboring Starr Street) and his brother Charles, the church was completed and dedicated in 1882. It was sold to the Brainard Lodge of Masons in 1896. Since 1997 it has been the Apostolic Cathedral of Hope. The windows were closed up in 1909, but have recently been restored with modern replacements.
St. John’s Industrial School, a Catholic residential school for boys in need of care, was established in Hartford in 1904. An impressive new building for the school, overlooking the Connecticut River, was built in Deep River in 1907-1908. The school was staffed by the Xaverian Brothers, a worldwide teaching congregation, until 1919. An orphanage for boys in Hartford, run Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery, moved to the site in Deep River and the Sisters of St. Joseph administered the home and school until 1958. Over the years, many additions were made to the facility, which evolved into a a Home and School for Boys. The residential program closed in June 2013 and in September The Academy at Mount Saint John (135 Kirtland Street, Deep River) reopened as a Clinical Day School.
The Capewell Horse Nail Company was founded in 1881 by George Capewell, who invented an improved machine for making horseshoe nails. Located next to the old Capewell factory in Hartford is the company’s office building (60 Popieluszko Court, formerly Governor Street), built around 1900. Designed by an unknown architect, the office building features an elaborate brick, brownstone and terra-cotta façade.
Merry Christmas! For Christmas, here is a church in Thompsonville (in Enfield). A Catholic mission church was first built in Enfield at the corner of Pearl and Cross Streets in 1860. The basement of a new church was begun at the corner of Pearl and High Streets in 1892. The completed Saint Patrick Church was dedicated by Bishop Michael A. Tierney on November 20, 1904. On January 5, 1949, a fire, ignited by a vigil light, gutted the church leaving only the outside walls standing. The church was fully restored by November 12, 1950. Today St. Patrick Church and St. Adalbert Church, also in Thompsonville, form the Catholic Communities of St. Patrick and St. Adalbert.
Today we continue with the Catholic theme, but this time with a church in Niantic. St. Agnes Parish was established in Niantic, East Lyme in 1922. The original wooden church on Prospect (now Haigh) Avenue, opened in November, 1924. Construction on the present church was interrupted by World War II. The foundation had been dug, but was covered over until construction was resumed in the mid-1950s. The parish celebrated its first Mass in the new church, at 22 Haigh Avenue, on February 10, 1957. The former wooden church was used as the parish center and church school until it was razed in 1962 to make way for a new church hall. A new rectory was built in 1967 and the current church hall and classrooms in the 1990s.
In 1852 four Sisters of Mercy came to Hartford and opened a school in the basement of St. Patrick’s Church in Hartford. The Sisters of Mercy is a religious order founded in Ireland in 1831 by Catherine McAuley to teach and care for the sick and needy. In 1880, the Sisters purchased the Toohey Farm, formerly the Terry Farm, located between Steele Road, Albany Avenue and Asylum Avenue in West Hartford. The old farmhouse became a home for aged people and the produce of he farm supported the home and the nearby Mount Saint Joseph Convent. The house had earlier been the home of Rose Terry Cooke, a writer and poet known for her humorous fiction dealing primarily with New England village life. Additional facilities were built on the farm over the years, which would develop into the Mercy Community, which is devoted to the health and comfort of its members, focusing especially on the elderly poor. The Community offers adult day care, long-term care, rehab and assisted living.
The Mercy Community campus is dominated by a large building with two towers. Work on this four-story brick structure with brownstone trim, designed by John J. Dwyer in 1893, was begun in 1894-1895 (it opened in 1896). At that time, the central administration building was completed, as well as the chapel and the northern of two planned dormitory wings. A decade later (in 1905), the increasing demand for rooms in the facility prompted the construction of the south wing, which more than doubled the number of residents the Home could accommodate. Additional modern wings have been added to the structure over the years.