Born in Westfield, Massachusetts in 1780, by age twenty-one John Mather was a merchant running a store in Hartford. In 1806 he started a glass works in Manchester (then still a part of East Hartford). It was soon destroyed in a fire, but the following year Mather was back in business, producing a variety of glass bottles. A hurricane in 1821 destroyed his glass factory and there is no evidence it was ever rebuilt. The location of the glass works was behind the current brick homes in the area of 109-119 Mather Street in Manchester. Mather’s home in Manchester, where he lived from 1827 to 1844, is located at 97 Mather Street, at the corner of Eastfield Street. Mather was a Mason and the local Lodge met in his house from 1829 to 1844. A painting of the house by Manchester artist Russell Cheney (1881-1945) is in the Masonic Temple on East Center Street in Manchester. A hearth with original paneling, taken from the Mather House, is also now located in the Masonic Temple with an inscription recognizing Mather’s contributions to Masonry.
The Woodbridge Tavern, where George Washington was entertained on November 9, 1789, once stood at the west end of the triangular green located at the intersections of East Center Street, Middle Turnpike East, and Woodbridge Street in Manchester. At the time, this was the village of Manchester Green. The Tavern was owned by Deodat Woodbridge (1757-1836), who owned many acres of land in Manchester Green. By his will of 1820 he divided his property among his sons with the youngest, Deodatus Woodbridge (1800-1857), inheriting his father’s residence and 130 acres to the north, across the street from the tavern. The Woodbridge Farmstead then passed through generations of Deodatus’ direct descendants. Around 1830 to 1835, Deodatus built the surviving family house, which has an address of 495 Middle Turnpike East. For almost two centuries, the Woodbridge Farmstead was part of the Meadow Brook dairy farm, run by the Woodbridge family. Most of the farm acreage was sold off in 1951 for residential development, but the house and remaining property were left to the Manchester Historical Society by Thelma Carr Woodbridge (1911-2009), wife of Raymond Brewster Woodbridge (1912-1997), subject to her lifetime use. Two historic barns also survive on the property.
The home of Manchester’s Masonic Lodge No. 73 AF & AM is at 25 East Center Street. Lodge #73 was chartered in 1826 and met in various places over the years before the Masonic Temple was built. These included the the upper floor of a two room school-house at Manchester Green (until 1855, except for a period of anti-Masonic sentiment, when the Lodge met at the home of John Mather, the first elected Worshipful Master of Manchester, from 1827 to 1844), the Center Academy building (1855-1875 and 1886-1913), the Spencer Block (1875-1885), Cheney Hall (1886) and lastly the Odd Fellows Building. The corner stone of the current temple was laid on October 2, 1926 at a ceremony which was combined with the observance of the 100th Anniversary of the establishment of the lodge. The Temple was dedicated on October 8, 1927. The Temple is also the home of Friendship Tuscan Lodge No. 145 A.F. & A.M.
The Robert B. Weiss Center at 479 Main Street in Manchester is home to the town’s Human Services Department. The large Colonial and Classical Revival building was built in 1931-1932 as the Manchester Main U.S. Post Office. It was designed under James A. Wetmore, Acting Supervising Architect for the U.S. Treasury Department, and was well planned for a difficult corner site with a substantial slope. The structure was built by the Pieretti Brothers of Centerbrook. The U.S. Postal Service moved from the building in 1991 and the town bought it for use as offices. It was given its current name in 1994 in honor of Robert B. Weiss, who served 23 years as town manager.
The Weldon Block is a commercial building at 901-907 Main Street in Manchester. Compared to its flat-roofed neighbors on Main Street, the Colonial Revival-style Weldon Block has a more residential design, featuring a hipped roof with dormer windows. Dr. Thomas Weldon (1861-1939) built the Weldon Block in 1898 after a fire destroyed his earlier (c. 1890) building in 1897. Dr. Weldon both had his office and resided (until 1915) in the building. The Weldon Block also housed Weldon Drug Company, which had been founded by Dr. Weldon’s father, Thomas Weldon, Sr. (1826-1910). The building remained in the family until 1937 and Weldon Drug continued in business for many years thereafter. The Weldon Block, which has been expanded several times over the years, has been home to a number of businesses, including Regal Men’s Shop from 1940 to 2000.
The former factory building at 71 Hilliard Street in Manchester was built in 1887-1888 and was first occupied by the Mather Electric Company. After starting as a producer of dynamos, the company began to manufacture light bulbs. The Edison General Electric Company sued the Mather Company for patent infringement and the latter was eventually put out of business. The factory was then rented by other industrial tenants. In 1903, it was purchased by the Bon Ami Company (earlier the Orford or Robertson Soap Company), which had been renting space in the building since their first factory on Oakland Street in Manchester burned down in 1899. The company produced the popular Bon Ami Soap in the factory until 1959. The building then housed other businesses. In 1980, Bob Bell purchased part of the property, which became home to what is now New England Hobby. Since 1999, the Time Machine hobby shop has also been located in the building, making it the largest hobby retail location in New England.