A Baptist church was established in Ashford in the village of Westford in 1780. In 1848 a new church was built in Warrenville section of town, as Richard M. Bayles describes in his History of Windham County, Connecticut (1889):
John Warren, Esq., manifested much anxiety to have a Baptist church organized in the western part of Ashford, in a village on the turnpike from Hartford to Boston and Providence. The First, or as it was often called, the Knowlton meeting house, was not considered so central, nor easy of access as many thought desirable. But the people in the vicinity of the old church were greatly opposed to giving up worship in their sanctuary, and continued for a time to worship there after another congregation was formed in “Pompey Hollow,” as the place was then called. Mr. Warren offered a fund to support worship in the Hollow, and the name of the village was changed to Warrenville. A church was organized January 22d, 1848[.]
The meeting house was completed that same year (1848). Later called the United Baptist Church, it is now known as Living Proof Church.
Knowlton Memorial Hall, located at 25 Pompey Hollow Road in Ashford, was built in 1924 to serve as a town hall and library. These facilities are located on the second floor, while a large hallway and auditorium occupy the first floor. The building was the gift of Charles C. Knowlton (1844-1924), a native of Ashford who was a partner in a Putnam silk mill. He resided in New York City, where he marketed the firm’s silk, but he would spend summers in his home town of Ashford. He gifted Knowlton Memorial Hall in honor of his father, Jonathan W. Knowlton, and his ancestor, Col. Thomas Knowlton (1740-1776), who had served in the Revolutionary War. Col. Knowlton led a company of men who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill and was killed the following year in fighting in New York. Knowlton Memorial Hall was designed by Herbert Loud and is constructed of local fieldstone, reflecting a rustic aesthetic associated with the Craftsman movement. The Babcock Library, originally opened in 1866, was established through a gift of $3,000 from Archibald Babcock (1780-1862), another successful Ashford native who became a brewer in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Initially located in the Warrenville General Store, the library had for many years been housed in the residence of librarian Peter Platt before finding a permanent home in Knowlton Memorial Hall. Babcock also gave $3,000 to establish the Babcock Band, which is the nation’s oldest civilian cornet band.
As described in yesterday’s post, St Philip the Apostle Church in Ashford is a Catholic parish established in 1921. Rev. John Joseph Nilan of Hartford sent Father William J. Dunn to a 135-acre farm he had acquired, land where the church would eventually be built in the 1930s. Until then, Father Dunn resided in an old farmhouse, 48 Pompey Hollow Road, in which he partitioned off a section to serve as a chapel. He had to endure local prejudice against Catholics, but eventually succeeded, with the help of the local Catholic community, in erecting the church. I don’t know who built the Federal-style farmhouse, but it appears to have been erected in 1815. Today the house is home to Antiques at Pompey Hollow.
St. Philip the Apostle Church, 64 Pompey Hollow Road in the Warrenville section of Ashford, was built of native stone in the 1930s through the efforts of the local farming community. Most were of Slovak descent and the church has a Byzantine copper onion dome. The church was erected through the leadership of Father William J. Dunn, who was sent to the new parish, which originally encompassed nine rural towns in eastern Connecticut, in 1921 and celebrated Masses in the old farmhouse in which he lived until the new church was completed. It was designed by New York architect Paul Chalfin, a summer resident of Warrenville.
The house on the right in the picture above is the Tremko-Stebbins House, located on Route 44 in the Warrenville section of Ashford. The building on the left is a former Post Office. The house was built c. 1773 by Thomas Stebbins Sr., who bought 1/4 of an acre from Benjamin Clark. The last owner of the house was George T. Tremko, who bought it in 1946 from Abbie M. Balch (she served on the Ashford Board of School Visitors, to which she was elected in 1898). It was known as the post-master’s house because the Tremko’s were involved with the post office next door. The Town of Ashford bought the house via eminent domain in 1987 and there were plans to take it down and build a new library on the premises. The Ashford Historical Society helped to save the house and to acquire a grant to rehabilitate its exterior (this work was completed in 2014-2015). The town is waiting for another grant to rehabilitate the interior of the house, after which it can be used as a Museum and Tourist Information Center.
Thanks to Joan E. Bowley, Pres. of the AHS, for information on the house.
In the early twentieth century a community of Hungarian immigrants was established in the town of Ashford. There is a Hungarian Social Club at 314 Ashford Center Road and at 200 Ashford Center Road is the former First Magyar Reformed Church. According to Ashford assessor records, the church was built in 1930 and was sold to a private owner in 2003. It was then renovated to become a residence. Next door to the former church is the Woodward Cemetery, which has burials primarily from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
In the first half of the nineteenth century, Ashford Green was the active center of the Town of Ashford. Today, only one building survives from that time: the Ashford Academy, built in 1825. The first floor served as one of the town’s district schoolhouses (the Fifth School District). This schoolhouse was already being planned when a group of local citizens raised money by private subscription to add a second floor for use as a private academy for more advanced students. Academy sessions were held until 1875, after which the building served exclusively as a public school until 1949. Today the Ashford Historical Society uses the building for educational activities and to display some of their artifacts.