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 »
The design for the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington was chosen in 1964 after an architectural competition. The winning design, by Vincent G. Kling and Associates of Philadelphia, features a circular main complex, with a central courtyard, shaped like an elongated S-curve. Construction began in 1966 on the academic wing and in 1969 on the John Dempsey Hospital. Additions to the massive structure were made in 1994 and the complete Health Center campus currently consists of 35 buildings. The building has many examples of public art within. A bill passed last year provides for the construction of a new patient bed tower. Funding has been an issue, though, for the Health Center in recent years.
When architect Philip Johnson designed his famous Glass House, he simultaneously planned an adjacent structure, known as the Brick House. Completed in 1949, a few months before its counterpart, the Brick House served as a guest house, as well as containing the support systems for both buildings. The Brick House was intended to contrast with its glass neighbor, being enclosed by solid walls, although skylights and porthole windows provide much natural light within. Johnson remodeled the interior with a narrow sky-lit corridor in 1953. The Glass House property has been open for tours since 2007, but recently visitors have not been able to enter the Brick House, which requires $3 million in repairs. Read the rest of this entry »