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.
The State Normal School in New Britain was founded in 1849. It was the first training school for teachers in Connecticut and the sixth in the nation. According to David Nelson Camp’s History of New Britain (1889):
Proposals had been received by the trustees to locate the school in the city of Middletown, and in Farmington, Southington, and some other towns; and it was after the first of February, 1850, before the persons in New Britain interested in the enterprise were informed that their proposition would be accepted; but on the 15th of May, or in about three months, a building was prepared, and the school was opened. To make the necessary provision, the Educational Fund Company bought the town hall then in process of erection, made alterations to adapt it to the needs of the school, secured additional land, and erected a larger building.
The school was located in this building for the next three decades, except for a period, from 1867 to 1839, when the school was school was temporarily closed. As Camp further relates:
The General Assembly in 1881 appropriated seventy-five thousand dollars for a new building on condition that the town of New Britain would appropriate twenty-five thousand for the same purpose. The appropriation was made and the building was erected on a commanding site overlooking the city and the country to the east of New Britain. The new building is 126 feet in entire length by 85 feet in width, the foundations and underpinning being of Portland brown stone and the walls above of brick. The building is heated throughout by steam. It provides study, recitation, and other rooms for the Normal School, and school rooms for a part of the Model and Training Schools. It was opened and occupied in the autumn of 1883.
The building, overlooking Walnut Hill Park, was designed by Warren R. Briggs of Bridgeport. In the building was founded one of the first American kindergartens. The building was soon outgrown. An annex was built in 1891, primarily to add a gymnasium. At a hearing before the State Assembly’s Committee on Education in 1919, the school’s Principal, Marcus White, explained that:
I have a building that was built forty years ago and has not from the day of its completion been fit for teaching purposes. It has no cellar and our winter’s coal supply has to be dumped outside. The lighting is so bad that you have to carry a candle to find your way to some of the recitation rooms without falling upstairs. A New Britain manufacturer told me recently, after inspecting the plant, that if he made his help work in a place like that he would be arrested and ought to be. When the girls come to New Britain they have no place to live and engage in any social life. Some of those girls are living two together in small rooms, some of them sleeping two in a bed. We have no land surrounding the building. If a girl drops a piece of paper out of a window it falls on somebody else’s land. There is no room for tennis courts or any of those things that would enable us to develop a school which Connecticut girls could honestly want to attend. [quoted in the "Predicts Shortage of 500 Teachers," Hartford Courant, March 14, 1919]
In 1922, the school moved to a new campus on Stanley street and later developed into Central Connecticut State University. From 1925 to 1988, the old State Normal School building (27 Hillside Place) served as the New Britain Board of Education and School Administration Offices. In 1989-1991, the building was converted into condominium units.
Yesterday I featured Linsly Hall at Yale University in New Haven. The other half of what is now known as Linsly-Chittenden Hall was built in 1888-1890 in the Romanesque style. Chittenden Hall was designed by J. Cleveland Cady and was originally intended to be the first part of a grand new university library as envisaged by Yale president Timothy Dwight V. The plan called for the demolition of the Old College Library (now Dwight Hall), but opposition saved the building and ended the original expansion planned for Chittenden. Eventually, Linsly Hall was built to fill the gap between Chittenden and the Old Library. Chittenden’s main reading room features Education, a Tiffany stained glass window. The building was restored in the late 1990s.
The Slater Library, at 26 Main Street in Jewett City, serves the towns of Griswold and Lisbon. The library was the gift of industrialist and philanthropist John Fox Slater, who owned the Slater Mills in Jewett City. It had not been completed at the time of his death in 1884. His son, William Albert Slater, oversaw its completion and the library was dedicated in 1885. William A. Slater also donated the Slater Memorial Museum in Norwich in honor of his farther. The Slater Library was designed by Stephen C. Earle of Worcester. It was constructed of granite, brought from Milford, Mass., and brownstone. The library‘s size was doubled in 1930 with the building of an addition (the Fanning Annex), designed by Cudworth and Thompson of Norwich.
The Watertown Library Association was established in 1865. First opened in the Academy on The Green and then occupying rented quarters above F.N. Barton’s Store on Woodbury Road, the library moved into its own building in 1883. A Richardsonian Romanesque structure at 50 DeForest Street, it was designed by Robert W. Hill of Waterbury. Dr. John Deforest had given the library $5000 in 1876 for a book fund and his brother, the merchant Benjamin DeForest, helped to fund the construction of the new library with a donation of $15,000 (pdf). The library moved into a modern building on Main Street in 1958. The former library building then became Our Savior Lutheran Church. It has more recently been purchased by the Taft School. Called Walker Hall, it is used as a performing arts space and chapel.
A Methodist church in the Forestville section of Bristol was established in 1855. The Forestville Methodist Church purchased a former Episcopal church building on Maple Street in 1864 and moved it to Forestville. This building was later enlarged to make room for an organ. On May 3, 1900, the church was struck by lightning during a severe thunderstorm and destroyed in the ensuing fire. The corner stone for a new church was laid on September 12, 1900 and it was dedicated on December 27, 1900. The church, designed by George W. Kramer of New York, is a brick edifice with a brownstone foundation. The name of the church, which is located at 90 Church Avenue in Forestville, was later changed to Asbury United Methodist Church.