First Congregational Church, Suffield Connecticut

The First Congregational Church in Suffield, probably taken around 1920. Image from Celebration of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Settlement of Suffield, Connecticut (1921).

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The church in 2015:

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Suffield’s first church building was built around 1680, and went through a series of relatively short-lived buildings before the present-day one was completed on the west side of the town green in 1869.  It has been used by the church ever since, with a few changes.  The most obvious difference is the steeple; like many other churches in New England, the top of it was destroyed in the September 1938 hurricane, and it has not been replaced.  The other major change isn’t obvious from this angle, but in 1956 a new wing was added to the church on the north (right) side, with classrooms, offices, and other spaces.

Hatheway House, Suffield Connecticut

The Hatheway House on South Main Street in Suffield, around 1920. Image from Celebration of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Settlement of Suffield, Connecticut (1921).

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The house in 2015:

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The present-day view of this historic house is dominated by a massive sycamore tree that is even older than the house itself. The tree is estimated to be about 300 years old, while the house was built sometime in the mid 1700s. Sources seem to indicate either 1736 or 1761, but either way the house predates the American Revolution. It was originally owned by Shem Burbank, a wealthy Tory businessman during the American Revolution. Following the war, his loyalty to the British cost him a lot of his business, so his subsequent financial issues forced him to sell the house to Oliver Phelps. The new owner did not hold the property for too long, though, before he had his own monetary problems; Phelps sold the house around 1800 after losing money in a failed land investment.

The new owner was Asahel Hatheway, whose family owned the house for the rest of the century.  During this time, an addition was made to the north (right) side, to go along with the previous addition that Phelps had built in 1794. The house has been well-preserved over the years, even down to the rare 1794 French wallpaper that is still on the walls. Today it is owned by Connecticut Landmarks and open to the public as a museum, providing a glimpse into the 18th and 19th century life of the upper class in the Connecticut River Valley.

Union Church of Christ, Ludlow Mass

The Union Church of Christ on Center Street in Ludlow, before 1904. Image from The History of Ludlow, Massachusetts (1912).

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The church following its 1904-1905 renovation, photographed sometime between then and 1912. Image from The History of Ludlow, Massachusetts (1912).

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The church in 2015:

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When the town of Ludlow was established in he 1700s, the center of the town was located in what was approximately the geographic center of Ludlow, at the corner of present-day Church Street and Center Street.  It was there that the first meetinghouse was built, and the location served as the religious and civic center of the town.  However, with the start of the Industrial Revolution, the town’s economic center began to shift to the southwest, along the Chicopee River.  The development of factories along this area, and the subsequent increase in population, meant that the workers needed a local church, and the owners of the Springfield Manufacturing Company decided to provide such a church.

The building was completed in 1845, and at first was used both by Congregationalists and Methodists.  However, neither group stayed long – the Methodists built their own church in 1847, and a year later the Springfield Manufacturing Company went bankrupt.  The Congregationalists disbanded, and the church was used only occasionally until 1867, when a new Congregational church formed.

As seen in the difference between the first two photos, the building was extensively remodeled in 1904-1905, with the addition of stained glass windows, a cupola, and a front porch, among other decorative elements to the exterior.  Another change came in 1961, when a wing was added to the south (left) side of the building; it is partially visible behind the small tree on the left.  Today, the building still looks very similar to its post-renovation appearance, and it continues to be an active United Church of Christ congregation.

First Church, Ludlow Mass

The First Church of Ludlow, at the corner of Church and Center Streets, around 1912.  Image from The History of Ludlow, Massachusetts (1912).

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The church in 2015:

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The building in the first photo was the third meeting house for the First Church of Ludlow.  The first one stood right about where I took the second photo from, but was moved across Church Street in 1841, when the second church building was completed.  This one didn’t last long, though – it burned in 1859, and was replaced later in the year with the one seen above.  The third building stood for over 120 years, but it too burned, in a suspicious fire in 1980.  It was rebuilt on the same spot in 1982, and today, like many other “First Churches” in New England, it is part of the United Church of Christ denomination.

First Meetinghouse, Ludlow Mass

The First Meetinghouse building on Church Street in Ludlow, around 1912. Image from The History of Ludlow, Massachusetts (1912).

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The building in 2015:

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Built in 1783, this is one of the oldest church buildings in the Connecticut River Valley, although it hasn’t functioned as a church in over 170 years.  It doesn’t look much like a church, but it actually hasn’t changed much in exterior appearance over the years.  The white, steepled churches that we commonly associate with New England towns were not yet universally adopted in the late 1700s.  Particularly in small towns, simple structures like this were still common, as seen in other places like Rockingham Vermont, where a similar-looking meeting house was built around the same time.

A steeple wasn’t the only thing that many of these early meeting houses lacked, though – another one was heat.  Some, like the one in Rockingham, still don’t have heat over 225 years later.  However, here in Ludlow a stove was finally installed in 1826.  Fifteen years later, a new church was built, and the old one was sold to Increase Sikes for the princely sum of $50 and moved across Church Street to its present location; it had previously been in what is now the triangle of land between Church Street and Center Street.  Sikes soon sold it back to the town, and it was used for town meetings until 1893, when the town offices were moved to the rapidly-growing industrial village along the Chicopee River in the southwest corner of town.

For many years, the building was used as a Grange Hall, until the town purchased it again in 2000.  Since then, the building has been restored, and it forms an important part of the Ludlow Center Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Gaylord Library, South Hadley Mass

The Gaylord Library on College Street in South Hadley, around 1904-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The library in 2015:

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The epitaph on William Shakespeare’s grave warns that, “cursed be he that moves my bones,” so I suppose it is a good thing that he was never buried here in South Hadley, where the old town cemetery was moved back in 1902 to build a library. Perhaps Shakespeare would’ve approved in the name of literature, but either way the first photograph shows the site of the former cemetery, soon after it was redeveloped as the Gaylord Memorial Library.

This site was originally home to the First Congregational Church of South Hadley as well as the adjoining cemetery, but in 1894 the church burned, along with a small library that was housed inside the church.  Local philanthropist William H. Gaylord offered to donate money to build a library if the graves were moved, and the plan was approved.  The library opened in 1904, and later in the year both William Gaylord and his wife Betsey died, on the same day.  They left an endowment to maintain the library, which operated independently until 1968, when it became a branch of the South Hadley Public Library.  Because of costs, however, it reverted to an independent library in 1995, and is open to the public on a limited schedule, Thursdays through Saturdays.