The developer of the Whitfield Shore condominiums, built in 1985 on the site of an old restaurant named Berenice’s, 446 Whitfield Street in Guilford, asked architect Wilfred J.O. Armster to create “something wild.” Armster’s modern design has such a distinctive appearance that it has been popularly known as the “Spaceship” ever since it was built. Proposing the construction of such a futurist structure in a town filled with so many colonial and nineteenth century houses led to a heated public hearing; but the building was approved and was built with Armster himself as general contractor.
The original Warburton Chapel once stood at 61 Temple Street in Hartford, between Market and Front Streets. The Chapel began as the Union Sabbath School, started in 1851 as a mission of Hartford’s Center Church to residents of the city’s East Side. It occupied various quarters until Mary A. Warburton endowed a permanent home for the school and mission chapel on Temple Street in memory of her husband, John Warburton. The Warburton Chapel was dedicated on June 28, 1866 and rapid growth led to the construction of an addition in 1873. By 1916, the neighborhood around the Warburton Chapel was primarily Italian, and the building also served as the home of the First Italian Congregational Church. In 1948, Center Church decided to sell the Chapel and relocate its programs to the Center Church House on Gold Street. The Warburton Chapel was acquired by St. Anthony’s Catholic Parish, which converted it to serve as its new social center, named the Casa Andrea in memory of Rev. Andrew J. Kelly, who served as pastor of St. Anthony’s Church for 29 years. The chapel was demolished in 1960 to clear space for the building of Constitution Plaza.
The Charter Oak Community Church, an interracial interdenominational church, was established in 1942 and held its services in the community building of the Charter Oak Terrace public housing project. In 1954, the Hartford Housing Authority agreed to the sale of land at the corner of Brookfield Street and Charter Oak Avenue to the Trustees of Warburton Chapel for the construction of a building for the Charter Oak Church. Funds from the sale of the old Warburton Chapel were used to erect the new building, known as the Warburton Community Church. Designed by E.T Glasse, Jr., of Farmington, the new church at 420 Brookfield Street was dedicated on May 6, 1956. Read the rest of this entry »
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.
The twenty-six-floor office tower at 777 Main Street in Hartford (at the corner of Pearl Street) was built between 1964 and 1967 as the headquarters of the Hartford National Bank & Trust Company. The city’s oldest bank, the Hartford National Bank, had its origins on this very same block back in 1792. From 1811 to 1912, the bank was located in a Greek Revival building on State Street. It then moved to a new building (demolished in 1990) at the corner of Main and Asylum Streets (considered to be Hartford’s first skyscraper). In 1915 it became the Hartford-Aetna National Bank. It merged with the United States Security Trust Company in 1927 to become the Hartford National Bank and Trust. At that point, the bank moved to the United States Security Trust Company’s building, located at the corner of Main and Pearl, which had been built for the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1870. This building was demolished in 1964, along with the neighboring State Bank and Phoenix Bank buildings, to make way for the current office tower on the site. Designed by Welton Becket and Associates of New York, the building has gone by several names through various bank mergers: Shawmut, Fleet and, most recently, Bank of America. Vacant since 2011 and up for sale, plans are being discussed to convert the building into into mixed-income apartments.
Part of the Arnold Bernhard Arts and Humanities Center at the University of Bridgeport is an interesting ovoid structure (pictured above). The building was constructed in 1969-1972 to showcase performing arts events and visual art exhibitions. To the right (only part of which is visible in the image above) is the building’s nine-floor structure, which houses the university’s arts and humanities departments. The building was recently renovated.
Built in 1974-1975 and replacing a former succession of historic low-rise buildings which once stretched on the west side of Main Street in Hartford, between Pearl Street and Center Congregational Church, is the skyscraper at One Financial Plaza. Popularly known as the Gold Building, for its unusually tinted windows, it was designed by Neuhaus & Taylor of Houston, TX. The Gold Building was recently the victim of some car-on-building violence.
Built in 1954-1957, the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company’s headquarters in Bloomfield (now known as the Wilde Building, for company president Frazer B. Wilde), was a pioneering example of an International Style suburban corporate structure. Designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, it was conceived as a modern campus with sophisticated amenities in a bucolic area. The skills of interior designer Florence Knoll and sculptor Isamu Noguchi were also called upon in the building’s creation. In 1982, CG and INA Corporation joined to form CIGNA, which proposed to demolish and replace the building with a new development in 1999. Preservationists acted to oppose these plans and the building was placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places list in 2001. CIGNA eventually decided to remain in the building and rehabilitate it. Read the rest of this entry »