First Congregational Church, South Windsor, Connecticut

The First Congregational Church on Main Street in South Windsor, around 1898. Image from The Connecticut Quarterly (1898).

The church in 2017:


When the town of Windsor was established in the 1630s, its borders originally extended across both sides of the Connecticut River, and included the present-day towns of Windsor, East Windsor, South Windsor, Windsor Locks, Bloomfield, and Ellington. Initially, most of Windsor’s settlement occurred on the west side of the river, but over the course of the 17th century a number of residents built homes here on the east side, in what became known as the village of East Windsor.

Because of its location on the opposite side of the river, traveling to and from church was often difficult, and in 1694 a church was established here in East Windsor. The original church building was located a little north of here, next to the Edwards Cemetery, and the first pastor was Timothy Edwards. He served in this position for over 60 years, until his death in 1758, but he is best known for being the father of Jonathan Edwards, the prominent preacher and theologian who helped spark the Great Awakening.

The current church building is the fourth one built by the congregation, and it was completed in 1845. Most New England churches of this era featured a Greek Revival design, with a columned portico at the front of the building, and this church is no exception. Its design, particularly the tower in the first photo, is remarkably similar to that of the First Church of Windsor, which was renovated a year earlier, perhaps by the same architect.

This area along Main Street was the historic town center of East Windsor, which was incorporated as a separate town in 1768. At the time, it included all of Windsor on the east side of the river, but in 1845 the southern portion of the town was split off to form the town of South Windsor. The current church building, which was built the same year, was located within the new town, so it became the First Church of South Windsor.

In the approximately 120 years since the first photo was taken, the church building has remained in active use, although with some changes to the exterior of the building. Along with modern additions to the back, there is also a new spire. The original one had deteriorated to the point where it had to be taken down at some point around the mid-20th century, and it was not replaced until 1963. Otherwise, though, the building survives as an important part of South Windsor’s historic Main Street, and it is a contributing property in the Windsor Farms Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

First Church, Windsor, Connecticut

The First Church of Windsor, located on Palisado Avenue just north of the Farmington River, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The church in 2017:


The area of present-day Windsor was first settled by  colonists in 1633, making it the first English settlement in Connecticut. As a result, the church, which was established the same year, is also the oldest Congregational Church in the state and among the oldest in the nation. The original church building was located across the street from here on the Palisado Green, which at the time was the town center. However, over the years the southern part of the town, on the other side of the Farmington River, began to grow. After a fire destroyed the church in 1754, there was considerable debate about the location of the new church, since the river posed a significant obstacle to travel. Ultimately, two new churches were built, with one on the north side and the other on the south.

This arrangement remained in place until the early 1790s, when the two congregations were reunited, and in 1794 the current church building was completed. As part of a compromise, the new church was located on the north side of the river, with the school was on the south side, and a new covered bridge across the river to facilitate travel. The chairman of the building committee was Oliver Ellsworth, a Senator who was no stranger to negotiating compromises, having been involved in crafting the Connecticut Compromise while serving as a delegate the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787. Ellsworth, who lived about a mile and a half north of here, would later serve as Chief Justice of the United States from 1796 to 1800, and after his death in 1807 he was buried in the cemetery next to the church.

Although the church building dates back to 1794, it was heavily modified in 1844, with renovations to both the interior and exterior. The original tower was replaced, and front of the church was redesigned with a columned portico, which was a common feature in Greek Revival-style churches of the era. However, there are still a few signs of its original Federal-style design, including the quoins on the corners of the building and the keystone design above the windows. These are easily visible in the first photo, and they are still there, although mostly hidden by the trees in the foreground. Today, the well-preserved building continues to be in active use as a church, and it is a prominent part of the Palisado Avenue Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

Robert G. Shumway House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 34 Mulberry Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The building in 2017:


This house was one of many in Springfield that were designed and built by Simon Sanborn in the first half of the 19th century. Although not as grand in size or appearance as some of his other homes, such as the Alexander House, this house is one of his few surviving works. It was built in 1840, and features prominent Greek Revival-style portico, complete with four columns. The rear section of the house, with its Second Empire-style mansard roof, appears to have been added later, probably around the 1870s.

The original owner was John Bunker, who was a former ship captain. There is little available information about him or his time at this house, and by the late 1850s the house was owned by Robert G. Shumway, a jewelry manufacturer. He lived here with his wife Julia and their four daughters, Julia, Lucy, Helen, and Abby, until his death in 1880. However, the house remained in his family for many decades. His two younger daughters, Helen and Abby, never married, and they lived here together until Helen’s death in 1930. Abby was still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and she remained here until her death in 1947 at the age of 87, some 90 years after her father had first purchased the home.

In the years since the first photo was taken, most of the surrounding homes have since been demolished, and the Milton Bradley School now takes up much of the block. The school’s parking lot surrounds the former Shumway property on three sides, but the old house still stands. Its exterior has not changed much in the past 80 years, and it still retains its unusual combination of a Greek Rrvival columned portico and a mansard roof. As the sign in the 2017 photo indicates, though, it is no longer a single-family home, and is instead used as a law office.

Henry Sterns House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 48 Madison Avenue in Springfield, around 1893. Image from Sketches of the old inhabitants and other citizens of old Springfield (1893).

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The house in 2017:

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Henry Sterns was born in 1794 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but came to Springfield as a young child. He went on to become a prosperous merchant, and in 1826 he married into the prominent Dwight family. His wife, Sophia, was the daughter of the late James Scutt Dwight, who himself had been a wealthy merchant. The following year, the couple moved into this house, which at the time was located closer to Central Street.

The house is built of brick, with a relatively simple Federal-style design that was typical for the time. It was designed by Simon Sanborn, a prolific master builder who constructed a number of buildings in early 19th century Springfield, including the Alexander House. At the time, the Maple Hill section of Springfield was lightly developed, and Sterns’s home was situated on a large lot on the north side of Central Street. Covered in trees, the land became known as Sterns’s Woods, and abutted the land that would later become Springfield Cemetery.

Sterns lived in this house for the rest of his life, during which time he continued to be a successful businessman, and eventually served as treasurer for the Springfield Institution for Savings from 1849 to 1858. He died in 1859, and within the next decade Springfield experienced a rapid population growth. With increasing demand for new houses, the property was subdivided. Two new streets, Sterns Terrace and Madison Avenue, were developed, with one on either side of the house. Around 1870, the house itself was moved to the back of the lot, and became 48 Madison Avenue. The Charles L. Goodhue House, which still stands at 216 Central Street, was later built on the original site of the Sterns House.

By the time the first photo was taken, the house was in its new location, and was the home of jeweler William W. White and his wife Ellen. He died in the 1890s, and by the 1900 census Ellen was living here with her daughter and granddaughter. She also rented to boarders, and four were living here at the time. Among them was a newspaper editor, a proofreader, and an inspector at the Armory.

The old house has since seen a number of other owners, but it is still standing, nearly two centuries after Henry and Sophia Sterns moved in. Very little has changed with the exterior, and its plain design stands out in a neighborhood otherwise dominated by far more elaborate homes from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The city has very clearly grown up around the house, but it survives as a reminder of a long-lost time when Springfield’s wealthy residents lived on large, wooded estates on the outskirts of the downtown area. It is one of the oldest buildings in the city, and it is part of the city’s Maple Hill Local Historic District.

Buckwheat Hall, Springfield, Mass

The house at 224 Walnut Street in Springfield, around 1893. Image from Sketches of the old inhabitants and other citizens of old Springfield (1893).

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The house around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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James W. Crooks was a lawyer and a prominent Springfield resident of the early 19th century. He was from Blandford, Massachusetts, and had graduated from Yale in 1818. Initially he worked as a teacher, before studying law here in Springfield, under George Bliss, Sr. Aside from his legal work, he also served Springfield in different capacities, including as a member of the school committee, the board of selectmen, and the county commission.

Crooks also owned a significant amount of land in Springfield, and in 1835 he moved into this house on Walnut Street. At the time, Walnut Street marked the eastern extent of Springfield’s development, and beyond here was largely open land, with occasional scattered farms. On the eastern side of Walnut Street, opposite his house, Crooks owned a sizeable tract of land, which extended to Eastern Avenue and was later developed as part of the Old Hill neighborhood. At the time, though, it consisted of open fields of buckwheat, providing the name Buckwheat Hall for his house.

In 1849, Crooks married Ann Chapin, who was the daughter of Colonel Harvey Chapin, another prominent Springfield resident. Two years later, the couple left Buckwheat Hall, and by 1870 it was owned by Joseph and Mary Atwood.Joseph was a carpenter, and probably had plenty of work to do in this neighborhood. In the post-Civil War era, Springfield saw a significant housing boom, resulting in widespread development in the previously vacant land to the east of here.

Both Joseph and Mary died in 1889, and the property was subsequently developed. Atwood Place, seen in the foreground of the 2017 photo, was built just south of the house, subdividing the lot into six new houses. Buckwheat Hall remained, but was used as a rental property. In the 1900 census, it was rented by Francis C. Croy, a teacher who lived here with his wife Ella, their two children, and their daughter-in-law. In 1910, it was the home of carpenter Harry L. Putnam, his wife Bertha, and their two children. By 1920, Arthur M. Tales, who worked as a guard at the Armory, lived here with his wife Billie and their four children.

At the start of the 1920s, the large house was still serving as a single-family residence, but it was soon divided into four different units, and the rear section was reconstructed to match the height of the front. Along with this, as seen in the second photo, a one-story storefront was built on the front of the building. By the time this photo was taken, a convenience store was located here, and advertised a variety of soft drinks, including Nehi, Royal Crown, and Springfield’s own Country Club Soda.

More than 180 years after it was built, Buckwheat Hall is still standing. In 1893, it had been one of over 40 houses featured in Sketches of the old inhabitants and other citizens of old Springfield. Most of these homes dated to the late 18th and early 19th century, and only four remain today, including Buckwheat Hall. The storefront, which had long been vacant and neglected, was demolished around 2012-2013, revealing the house’s original appearance. From the outside, it looks to be in rough shape, though, and the front windows are still bricked up from when the storefront had been built. The windows at southeast corner of the building, seen here, are boarded up, but the rest of the units appear to still be occupied, and hopefully the house can eventually be restored to its former grandeur.

Second Baptist Church, Suffield, Connecticut (2)

Another view of the Second Baptist Church, taken around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, WPA Architectural Survey Collection.

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The church in 2017:

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The first photo was taken as part of a Works Progress Administration program to document historic buildings in Connecticut. Around 100 years old at the time, the Second Baptist Church was among those photographed in Suffield’s historic town center. As mentioned in more detail in the previous post, the congregation was established in 1805 by members of the First Baptist Church. The current building was completed in 1840, and has remained in use ever since.

The church is now nearly twice as old as it was when the first photo was taken, but its exterior has seen little change. The only significant difference is the loss of the parsonage on the extreme right, which was demolished in the 1950s to build a new wing of the church. Along with many other historic buildings in the center of Suffield, the church is a contributing property in the Suffield Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.