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.
Adjacent to the Center Congregational Church in Manchester is the town’s Municipal Building. The brick and limestone building was constructed in 1926 and is typical of the colonial revival civic architecture of its era.
In 1772, the Ecclesiastical Society of Orford was established, in what would later become the town of Manchester. Owing to the unsettled conditions at the time of the Revolutionary War, it took twenty years for a Congregational meeting house to be built, although the congregation used the unfinished building for worship, starting in 1779, before it was finally completed in 1794. This first church building, which stood about 130 feet east of the present Center Church, was replaced by a new structure in 1826 on the same location. The building was raised up in 1840 so that a basement could be added below. The basement was then rented to the town for the transaction of public business. In 1878, the church’s steeple blew off and crashed through the roof. It was then sold to the town and a new church was built the following year in the Gothic style. The current church, now known as Center Congregational Church, was built in 1904 in the Colonial Revival style. The neighboring brick parish house was added in 1930 and the Simpson Educational Wing in 1957.
The Methodist Church in Manchester began with a sermon preached in the spring of 1790 by the Rev. George Roberts in the home of Thomas Spencer. Rev. Roberts was an assistant of the Rev. Jesse Lee, who had preached the first Methodist sermon in Connecticut in Norwalk on June 7th, 1789. A Methodist Society in Manchester was soon organized and the first church building was constructed in 1794. In 1822, a new building was built at the corner of Center and Main Streets, now the site of a Masonic Temple. In 1851, the expanding congregation decided to divide into two congregations. The North Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1851 on North Main Street and, after receiving a hundred new members, a new South Church was built in 1854 at the corner of Main Street and Hartford Road. This church was enlarged in 1891 and replaced by the current church in 1925. It was designed in a Tudor Gothic style by architect Arthur Eaton Hill of Providence, Rhode Island, who died before it was completed. In 1958, the church acquired the estate of Frank Cheney, Jr., located across Hartford Road.
This is the first building to be featured here which is likely not to exist very soon. John Olds is one of the founders of Manchester, who led the people of Orford parish in their quest to seperate from East Hartford in 1823, but his Revolutionary War-era house is in danger of being demolished very soon. The property, on Tolland Turnpike and Slater Road, is owned by TGM Associates, a New York developer. They own the nearby Waterford Commons apartments and hope to develop the land where the Olds House currently sits. Attempts to save the house by the town and historical society have not succeeded, so the house may soon be demolished.