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.
To serve the Irish community in Kensington (in Berlin), Father Luke Daly of New Britain acquired land on Main Street for a church in 1873. Construction began in October of 1878 and the unfinished church was dedicated in May 1879. St. Paul’s became a full parish two years later. A suspicious fire destroyed St. Paul Church on March 5, 1913. Construction soon began on the current church, at Alling and Peck Streets. The cornerstone was blessed on November 2, 1913 and the church was dedicated on May 24, 1914. According to the Hartford Courant (“Bishop Dedicates Kensington Church,” March 25, 1814):
The edifice itself was built of red brick with Kentucky limestone cornices. The roof is Spanish tile. The architecture is English Gothic with a hint of Spanish mission in the tower. There are three porticos.
Rev. Luke Daly, a Catholic priest, erected two Italianate houses in Kensington at 80 and 88 Main Street about 1873 on land he bought from George D. Boyer. When Daly died he left the houses to the Catholic Church, which owned them for twenty-five years.
The Cole family once had an extensive farm in Berlin around the area where the house at 98 Norton Road stands today. The house was possibly built as early as 1785, but it was extensively remodeled and “Victorianized” a century later by Edward A. Cole.
The white-painted brick building at 943 (AKA 947) Worthington Ridge in Berlin was built c. 1862 by Henry N. Galpin as a general merchandise store, replacing a previous store building on the site that had been destroyed in a fire. As related in Catharine Melinda North’s History of Berlin (1916):
From the time as far back as the memory of the oldest living person goes, a prosperous store has been conducted at the stand south of the Freedom Hart place, which for many years has borne the sign of Henry N. Galpin.
Names obtained of those who have been at the head of the business here are as follows: Orrin Beckley, about 1810; Samuel Porter (died 1838, aged eighty-eight); Horace Steele & Dr. David Carpenter; Plumb & Deming, 1835; Benjamin Wilcox; S. C. Wilcox; Galpin & Loveland; Henry N. Galpin; Strickland Bros., and lastly E. E. Honiss. This store formerly carried a line of everything that the community might need, including drugs. Physicians’ prescriptions were compounded here until, by mutual agreement, H. N. Galpin surrendered his drug department to Alfred North, who, in exchange, gave up the sale of his drygoods to Mr. Galpin.
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Mr. Galpin was a public-spirited citizen, ready at all times to respond liberally to every good cause. He was also a man of sterling integrity, as one, who knew him well, said, she would not fear to trust him with the last cent she owned.
As described in New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial, Vol. III (1913):
Hon. Henry Norris Galpin, son of Norris Galpin, was born in the old Galpin home on the lower end of Berlin street, Berlin, December 22, 1820, died December 22, 1892. He attended the common schools and academy in his native town and at an early age began to work for a living, his father dying when he was but a boy. He began an apprenticeship in a harness maker’s shop, but found that he preferred mercantile life and entered the employ of Edward Wilcox as clerk. He continued with Mr. Wilcox and his successor in business, Samuel C. Wilcox, until after 1850 when he purchased the business and continued it successfully to the end of his life. He owned considerable real estate in the vicinity of the store building. In 1861 his building and goods were destroyed by fire, but he erected a new building and resumed business. Though partly paralyzed from the effects of a fall in 1883, he continued to manage his business.
He was one of the leading citizens of the town, a substantial and capable man of business, active and useful in town affairs. Before the civil war he was a Democrat, but he became a Republican in 1860 and continued to support that political party to the end of his life. For many years he was town auditor and in 1863-80-82 represented his town in the general assembly. He was treasurer of school district No. 5 from 1878 until he died, and was also trustee of the Selden school fund. He was one of the organizers of the Wilcox Cemetery Association and was its first president, continuing to fill that office until his death. In 1845 he was first commissioned as postmaster of Berlin and he held the office almost continuously until he died. The post office was in his store.
The Galpin Store, much altered over the years, operated as a store into the 1950s. It is now a private residence.