The house at 84 Windham Street in Willimantic was built in 1898 and was the home of Lorenzo Litchfield, a station agent for the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. His wife, Lizzie Amelia Pomeroy, widow of John Bliss Fuller, was a member of the D.A.R. and the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 220 Valley Street in Willimantic began as a mission of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Windham in 1865. Services were held in a rented hall until 1883. The history of the church can be found in A Modern History of Windham County, Connecticut, Vol. I (1920), edited by Allen B. Lincoln, from which the following details are excerpted:
In the year 1884, however, a small frame church building in Central Village was moved to the site. of the present edifice, on the corner of Walnut and Valley streets. [. . .] With the building came also the altar, the old communion set, and vestments. And thus after thirty years St. Paul’s, Willimantic, became a corporate parish, the first resident rector of which was the Rev. Isaac W. Hallam. From that time on the positions of the little mother church in Windham and her sturdy offspring in Willimantic were partially reversed; Willimantic becoming the residence of their mutual rector and absorbing the greater part of his time. [. . .] Meantime, a fund known as the Isabella Tracy Eaton Fund, was left to the parish, and from this the Missionary Society purchased a plot of ground adjoining the church property and erected a rectory thereon. [. . .]
A movement was started during Mr. Hatch’s incumbency to build a new church. A legacy of $20,000 had been left the parish by Mrs. Boardman of New Haven toward the erection of a new edifice for St. Paul’s parish, Willimantic, with the proviso that the parish should raise the needed balance. Pledges were secured for the amount, but the actual cash had not been turned in and Trinity College, Hartford, another beneficiary under the will, raised the legal technicality that the letter of the proviso had not been met, and the courts allowed only $10,000 of Mrs. Boardman’s estate to be applied to St. Paul’s legacy. This proceeding was regarded by many as a new proof that law and justice are not as close as hand and glove. As a local paper stated warmly, “Pledges as good as the Bank of England were secured,” but the law took its bland course and Trinity College was as triumphant as the cat that swallowed the canary.
However, the Missionary Society of the Diocese, deeming that the spirit of the will had been kept by the parish, added $9,500 to the $10,000 and the balance of $22,000 was raised by the people, with the consequence that the new church was built, and on September 24, 1913, was duly consecrated by Bishop Brewster.
The new structure is of gray stone, the interior finished in quartered oak. The old building was turned into a parish house, while the old chancel with its altar was enclosed and is used as a sacristy. [. . .]
Seven years after the new church building was completed, it was found necessary to partly rebuild the same as grave fundamental faults of construction had grown more and more evident. During the year 1919-1920 the work was done at an outlay of some $15,000. At the same time the parish house was enlarged and renovated. A new kitchen was built, a G.F.S. room added and furnished by the members of that society, who for the most part have shown themselves enthusiastic and conscientious church workers. The rectory was also thoroughly repaired. On Easter Day, 1920, the church was re-dedicated by Bishop E. C. Acheson.
The religious sentiment of Willimantic is now represented by six churches, viz., Congregational, Methodist, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Protestant Episcopal and Spiritualist. These have all been built up here since the year 1827. Up to the close of that year there was no church nearer than Windham Centre, nor any stated meetings except such as were held in a school house or in private houses. In the year mentioned a few persons here applied to the directors of the Connecticut Domestic Missionary Society for a minister. [. . .]
January 22d, 1828, an ecclesiastical council was called, of which Doctor Samuel Nott, of Franklin, was chosen moderator, and this council organized the First Congregational church of Willimantic. [. . .]
A church edifice was immediately erected, and was dedicated October 17th, 1828, Doctor Joel Hawes preaching the sermon. This was the first house of worship in the place. The expense of building it was a burden from which those who undertook it delivered themselves only after a determined struggle. The present society was formed soon after the church was built. [. . .] In 1843 the house of worship was considerably enlarged. [. . .]
On the acceptance of the call of Reverend Horace Winslow, the question of a new house of worship was earnestly advocated, and on February 24th, 1869, the society resolved to proceed to the work, and accordingly appointed a building committee composed of John Tracy, Allen Lincoln, William C. Jillson and the pastor elect. In July of that year the corner stone was laid, and in one year from that time the main edifice was dedicated to the worship of God. The expenses of this enterprise were provided for in various ways. To begin with, the society had from subscriptions and the sale of the old house $19,578. This fund was steadily increased by special efforts, so that when the main portion of the building was completed the debt was only a little over $9,000. In May, 1871, the chapel was completed and dedicated to the service of God. In about a year from that time it was proposed to pay off the whole debt of the society, which amounted then to $12,600. This amount was raised by the 1st of October, 1872. The whole cost of church, grounds, chapel, furniture, organ and all, amounted to $46,700, and it had all been paid, so that the society was free from debt. A service of praise and gratulation was held in view of the auspicious financial condition. Since then money has been raised and the chapel and adjoining rooms have been painted, carpeted and seated. The size of the main edifice on the ground is one hundred by sixty-three feet, and the chapel addition and adjoining room is ninety by thirty-six feet.
Happy New Year! The first Mass to be celebrated in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, 46 Valley Street in Willimantic, took place on January 1, 1905. The parish had been established to serve French Canadian immigrants. Over a century later, the church was undergoing renovations when a fire broke out on May 16, 2013. There was extensive fire, smoke and water damage and firefighters had broken through stained glass windows to fight the fire. Closed for two years while undergoing restoration work, the church was rededicated on June 20, 2015.
Camp meetings were a notable feature of religious life in nineteenth-century America and some continue in existence today. This site has already featured the Plainville Campground and Camp Bethel in Haddam. Another religious campground is the Willimantic Camp Meeting Association. It was established by Methodists who held the first meeting here on September 3, 1860. Today it is an interdenominational Evangelical Association. At its height the camp had 300 buildings, primarily cottages built by individual churches or families. A third of them were destroyed by the hurricane of 1938 and another hundred were lost to neglect over the ensuing decades. 100 cottages remain and constitute an architectural treasure. Read the rest of this entry »
The church was organized October 20th, 1827. At first the school houses were used for meetings, but a spirit of opposition arose and they were debarred this privilege. With aid from abroad they succeeded in building a meeting house on the site at present occupied. The site was purchased of Alfred Howes, and Messrs. Reed, Hardin and Fenton, of Mansfield, were contracted with to erect the church. The building, being completed, was dedicated May 27th, 1829. A Sabbath school was immediately organized. [. . .] The church is a neat and commodious building, which, with the lot it stands upon, is valued at twenty-five thousand dollars. Connected with the church is a vigorous Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor and a large and flourishing Sunday school.
In 1968, the First Baptist Church of Willimantic had an opportunity to sell its building after the Valentine’s Day Fire destroyed the 1865 Union Block. The declining church voted not to sell and to remain a downtown church, which is where it still stands. In 2002, First Baptist voted not to close its doors and instead chose to celebrate its 175th anniversary.
The Italianate house at 4 Main Street (pdf) in South Windham was built in 1871-1872 by Elisha H. Holmes (1799-1886) for his son, Elisha H. Holmes, Jr. (1844-1915), known as “Harlow.” He is described in Vol. I of the Commemorative Biographical Record of Tolland and Windham Counties (1903):
Elisha Harlow Holmes, secretary and treasurer of the Willimantic Machine Company, and a member of the firm known as the Radial Thread Buff Company, is one of the active business men of Willimantic. Windham county.
Elisha H. Holmes, his father, came to Windham in 1818, and followed his trade of cabinetmaker, also engaging in farming. Later he had a grist and plaster mill at South Windham. [. . .] His wife, Lydia, was a daughter of Amos Dennison Allen, a cabinet—maker of Windham, with whom Mr. Holmes learned his trade.
Elisha Harlow Holmes was born in South Windham, Conn., July 13, 1844. [. . .] In 1889 was formed the Willimantic Machine Company, of which he is secretary and treasurer and a member of the board of directors, and to this business he devotes the greater part of his time. The business is one of the very successful institutions of the “Thread Company,” being so great as to necessitate the employment of a number of skilled workmen, about fifty people in all, in the production of silk and thread machinery.
Mr. Holmes is also a member of the Radial Thread Buff Company, of South Windham. The buildings occupied are nearly all of brick, and are located adjacent to the tracks of the New London Northern railroad at South Windham. They are lighted by gas made on the premises, and the works are operated by a twenty-horse-power engine. The products are old-style and patent buffs for polishing silver, bronze and all metals requiring high polish, and the machinery used in their production is of original design. adapted especially for the work. This machinery is unique in its construction, and embodies ideas on which Mr. Binns was granted patents in 1884. The patent buff wheel, while superior to the old style and unlike any other, is made with less labor, at less expense, and its manner of construction is such that almost no waste of material results. The wheels made by this concern are now used by platers, cutlers and manufacturers generally on fine work, throughout the United States and Canada; each year shows an increase in the demand for them, and from a dozen to fifteen people are employed in their manufacture.
On May 7, 1866, Mr. Holmes was married, by Rev. Clayton Eddy, of St. Paul’s Church, Windham, to Miss Sarah Wheeler Johnson, a native of Windham, who was born May 24, 1844, [. . .] In 1871 Mr. Holmes erected a handsome home on Main street, in South Windham, where he has since resided. The beautiful trees on that street were set out by Mr. Holmes’ father.