The Italianate house at 289 Main Street in Kensington (in the town of Berlin) was built c. 1855 for Milo Hotchkiss (1802-1874). At first a painter, Hotchkiss became a wealthy landowner (in 1850 his real estate holdings totaled a substantial $5,000). He also operated a station on the Underground Railroad. Hotchkiss was a descendant of Gideon Hotchkiss, who served in the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars. The biography of Milo Hotchkiss is given in David N. Camp’s History of New Britain: With Sketches of Farmington and Berlin, Connecticut (1889):
Milo, son of Charles Todd and Leva H. Hotchkiss, was born at Homer, Courtland County, N. Y., Oct. 10, 1802. He married Rhoda Barrett, a native of Kensington, Jan. 22, 1826. Mr. Hotchkiss improved the limited advantages for education which he had in youth, and acquired habits of careful observation and thinking which characterized him through life. He early developed a natural taste for drawing and painting, and devoted several years to portrait painting, which brought him steady employment until other interests required his constant attention. He removed to Kensington in 1831, where he passed the remainder of his life. He had the care of a farm upon which he worked a part of the time, but was largely occupied in the settlement of estates and in public business. He was for many years justice of the peace, and was notary public until his death. For more than forty years he was a member of the board of school visitors, and for much of the time acting visitor. He was untiring in efforts to advance the cause of education, and especially to increase the efficiency and usefulness of public schools. He united with the Congregational Church soon after coming to Connecticut, and was ever a liberal supporter of gospel ordinances. He was an ardent advocate of the temperance and anti-slavery reforms, sometimes suffering in person and property from the attacks of opponents of these causes. He died Oct. 12, 1874.
As a young man, Nelson Augustus Moore, a Kensington-born photographer and painter, was inspired to further his artistic career after assisting Hotchkiss in painting a life study of a child killed in an accident in 1842.
The unusual building at 926-940 Farmington Avenue in Kensington was built c. 1875 by the brothers, Augustine F. Wooding and Ralph A. Wooding. They started a business making dog collars, later expanding to harness trimmings and saddlery hardware. In the 1896, they built a dam and pond and were granted a contract to supply water to trains on the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. The building’s tower was then erected to serve as a water tower. Known as the Tower House, in later years the building was used as apartments. Read the rest of this entry »
The Italianate house at 29 Four Rod Road in Berlin was built around 1855 by William Daniels. Because Daniels was a carpenter-builder, the house’s elaborate Greek Revival ornamentation may have served to advertise his skill at carving.
Reverend Samuel Clark (1729-1778), a Princeton graduate, was ordained in the Kensington Congregational Church in Berlin 1756 and then served as its minister until his death twenty-two years later. He built the grand house at 67 Burnham Street, one of the earliest brick residences in Connecticut, in 1759, but did not marry until 1766, when he wed Jerusha White. The latter part of his pastorate was contentious and the congregation split into separate societies in 1772. In 1773, Rev. Clark entered into a financially unsuccessful partnership, ending in a quarrel, with merchant Jonathan Hart. At the time of his death the Revolutionary War was underway and Rev. Clark was facing dismissal from his pastorate for suspected Tory sympathies. His house was next occupied by Rev. Benoni Upson, who succeeded him as minister. The Upson family lived in the house into the twentieth century. The house has a white-painted twentieth-century addition to the left of its front facade.
Dr. James Percival (d. 1807) was a prominent physician in the parish of Kensington in the town of Berlin. He was the father of the poet and naturalist James Gates Percival (1795-1856). The doctor is described by Julius H. Ward in The Life and Letters of James Gates Percival (1866):
He had a strong constitution and a vigorous mind. He easily grasped a subject, and was noted for keeping his own counsel and doing things entirely in his own way. He was social and persuasive in society, but divided his time mostly between his profession and his home. He was not liberally educated, but he had a taste for letters, and was as well read as most Connecticut doctors in his day. Except in winter, when he could use a sleigh, he made his calls on horseback, turning his saddle-bags into a medicine-chest. He was prompt in business and eminent in his profession. It was said of him by a friend: “Few physicians in a country town ever performed more business in a given time than Dr. Percival. This may be asserted of him both as it respects his whole professional life and also his daily visits. With a practice of nineteen years, he left an estate that was inventoried at fourteen thousand dollars.”
The house of his birth is still standing. It is a plain wooden building, bordering close upon the street, with a long sloping roof in the rear,-—a style of dwelling which our ancestors brought from England. It has now quite other tenants, and its shattered windows and uneven roof and weather-beaten paint show the marks of age. It is situated in one of the most romantic and charming regions in Connecticut. Near at hand is the parish church, standing on an elevated site, in the shade of fine old trees of buttonwood and oak, its low steeple cropping out just above their tops; in front of the house and over the way is an orchard slope; around it are patches of mowing and pasture; and at its foot is a beautiful sheet of water, which turns several mills in its progress, and then dashes over the rocks, and winds away among green meadows. Farm-houses are scattered everywhere among the neighboring eminences and in the valley. The whole neighborhood is remarkable for the rich and varied beauty of its scenery
The Kensington United Methodist Church at the corner of Church and Hotchkiss Streets in Berlin was built in 1893 and a modern education wing added in 1961. The church was first organized in 1858 as the Kensington Methodist Episcopal Church and met in the Berlin Town Hall until their first church was built in 1865 at the corner of Percival Avenue and Sbona Road.
Around 1855, Newton Woodford, a brass founder from New Britain, settled in Kensington in Berlin. He built an Italian Villa type house at 57 Hotchkiss Street, on land he had acquired from the Hart Manufacturing Company. As related in the Boston Post on Wednesday, October 20, 1875: “Newton Woodford, of the Hart Tool Manufacturing Company, of Kensington, Conn., and a prominent citizen of that place, fell dead of heart disease, while transacting business at New Britain, on Saturday.” The Woodford House is now a two-family residence.