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.

Forest Park Avenue, Springfield, Mass

Looking south on Forest Park Avenue from near the corner of Randolph Street in Springfield, sometime in the early 1900s. Image courtesy of Jim Boone.

The scene in 2017:


For most of the 19th century, the area that would become Springfield’s Forest Park neighborhood was only sparsely settled. However, with the opening of a trolley line to the area in 1890, the southwestern corner of the city suddenly became within easy commuting distance of downtown Springfield. One of the first developers in the neighborhood was the Mutual Improvement Company, which purchased much of the land in the large triangle between Fort Pleasant, Belmont, and Sumner Avenues. A number of new streets were laid out, including Forest Park Avenue, which is seen here near the center of the development.

The Mutual Improvement Company was founded by John and William McKnight, the brothers who had been developing Springfield’s McKnight neighborhood since the 1870s. Like in McKnight, they sought to create an upscale residential neighborhood here in Forest Park that would appeal to Springfield’s leading citizens. Nearly all of the houses were unique, and were designed by some of the city’s leading architects. They also sold undeveloped lots, although these deeds came with restrictive covenants that required a specific setback from the road and a minimum construction cost.

Development in this section of Forest Park began in the early 1890s, primarily in the area between Garfield Street, Churchill Street, Sumner Avenue, and Forest Park Avenue. A few of these homes are visible in the distance, and they tend to have Queen Anne-style architecture, which was popular in the last decades of the 19th century. However, the large-scale development of this area did not begin until after 1900. At this point, architectural tastes had shifted toward Colonial Revival, as can be seen in the house on the far left, which was built in 1902. Other buildings that were completed during this second phase include the 1901 Park Memorial Baptist Church, which is visible in both photos.

About a century after the first photo was taken, the Forest Park Heights neighborhood remains remarkably well-preserved, and very little has changed in this scene on Forest Park Avenue. The only significant difference is the house on the right side of the first photo, at the corner of Garfield Street. It was built in the early 1890s, and was the home of candy manufacturer Franz Jensen. However, it was demolished in the 1930s, and was later replaced by a smaller Cape-style home in the 1940s. Overall, though, most of the historic homes in this neighborhood have survived with few major changes, and in 1982 the area was added to the National Register of Historic Places as the Forest Park Heights Historic District.

Park Memorial Baptist Church, Springfield, Mass

The Park Memorial Baptist Church at the corner of Forest Park Avenue and Garfield Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The church in 2017:


This section of the Forest Park neighborhood is almost entirely residential, but there are also several historic church buildings, including the Park Memorial Baptist Church, seen here at the corner of Forest Park Avenue and Garfield Street. The church was established in 1892, and this building was completed in 1901, just as the surrounding neighborhood was being developed, and it served the nearby residents who lived too far from the Baptist churches in downtown Springfield. The name refers to the fact that it served as a memorial to several local Baptist leaders: Dr. George B. Ide, pastor of First Baptist Church; Dr. A. K. Potter, pastor of State Street Baptist Church; and Jonathan Gould Chase, a deacon of First Baptist Church.

Since its completion, the only major change to the exterior of this building is the addition on the right, which was built around the 1920s. Essentially nothing has changed since the first photo was taken, though, and the building remains a prominent landmark in the Forest Park neighborhood. However, over the years there have been some changes to the church congregation itself. In the early 1900s, the First Baptist Church merged with Highland Baptist and State Street Baptist, and for many years was located at the corner of State and Stebbins Streets, but in 1982 they merged with the Park Memorial Baptist Church and moved into this building. Now named the First Park Memorial Baptist Church, the church continues to hold its services here, and the building itself is now is part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

South Congregational Church, Springfield, Mass

South Congregational Church on Maple Street in Springfield, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of Jim Boone.

The church in 2017:


South Congregational Church was established in 1842 by members of Springfield’s First Congregational Church, and its first permanent home was on Bliss Street. This rather plain church had a very conservative architectural design that looked like any number of other churches in the area at the time, but in 1875 the congregation built a new, far larger and more elaborate church here, at the corner of Maple and High Streets.

This church was designed by William Appleton Potter, the half-brother of the equally notable architect Edward Tuckerman Potter. It was one of his first major works, and it is an excellent example of High Victorian Gothic architecture. The 1873-1874 city directory described it as being “a rather bold departure from ordinary models, being much like an amphitheater, and entirely unlike any other church building in Springfield.” This may have been somewhat of a hyperbole, since the Memorial Congregational Church in the North End, built a few years earlier, has many similar Gothic-style features, but South Congregational Church certainly stood out at a time when Springfield was building a number of fine churches.

Like many of the city’s other churches and public buildings of the era, it was built with locally-quarried stone, with a foundation of Monson granite and walls of Longmeadow brownstone. Along with this, terracotta, sandstone, and other materials were used to add a variety of colors to the exterior of the building. Also common in churches of the time period, the building is very asymmetrical, with a 120-foot tower located off-center in the southwest corner, and the main entrance at its base.

In total, it cost some $100,000 to construct, which was substantially more than most of the other new churches that were built around this time. However, the costs were offset by contributions from some of Springfield’s most prominent residents, including dictionary publishers George and Charles Merriam, railroad engineer Daniel L. Harris, and gun manufacturer Daniel B. Wesson, who later moved into a massive mansion directly across the street from the church.

At the time that this building was completed, the pastor of the church was Samuel G. Buckingham, who had served in that position since 1847. He was also an author, and he wrote a biography of his brother, William A. Buckingham, a former Connecticut governor and U.S. Senator. Reverend Buckingham remained here at the church for 47 years, until his retirement in 1894. His successor was Philip Moxom, who, aside from his work here at the church, was also the president of the Appalachian Mountain Club.

More than 140 years after its completion, South Congregational Church is still an active congregation, and the building survives as one of Springfield’s finest architectural works. The only major change over the years was the addition of a parish house on the back of the church in the late 1940s. Not visible from this angle, it matches the design of the original building and it was even constructed with brownstone that had been salvaged from the demolished First Baptist Church. The church is now part of the city’s Lower Maple Local Historic District, and in 1976 it was also individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Maple Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking north on Maple Street from Union Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892)

Maple Street in 2017:


These two photos, taken 125 years apart, show he changes that Maple Street underwent in the early 20th century. For most of the 1800s, the lower part of Maple Street was an upscale residential area, primarily with large, single-family homes. Several of these can be seen in the first photo, including one in front of the church, and another one just beyond it. However, as the city grew, these homes were steadily replaced with large apartment buildings. The building just to the left of the church, at the corner of Maple and Temple Streets, was built in 1906, and was followed about 20 years later by the apartment building on the right side of the photo. The most recent building in this scene is Chestnut Towers, visible on the far left. This 240-unit, 34-story apartment building was completed in 1976 at the corner of State and Chestnut Streets, and it is the tallest residential building in the city.

Today, the only surviving building from the first photo is South Congregational Church. It was designed by prominent architect William Appleton Potter, and was completed in 1875, replacing an earlier South Congregational Church that had stood several blocks away on Bliss Street. Some of Springfield’s most prominent residents attended this church, including many of those who lived in the nearby mansions. Despite the many changes to the neighborhood over the years, though, the church has remained as an important landmark. It is one of the city’s finest architectural works, and it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976.