Main Street from Sheldon Street, Hartford, Connecticut

Looking north on Main Street from Sheldon Street, around 1903-1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

Main St. south of Arch

Main Street in 2016:

When the first photo was taken, this section of Main Street just south of downtown Hartford was still an assortment of low-rise brick commercial buildings, most of which probably dated back to the mid 19th century. However, this would soon change. Already, larger buildings were rising in the distance, including the Travelers Insurance building, partially visible in the distant center of the first photo. Also building around the same time was the Wadsworth Atheneum, hidden from view at this angle but located on the right side of Main Street. This museum opened in 1844, but by the turn of the century they were looking to expand their building.

At the same time that these buildings were being built, though, others were coming down. The first photo was taken shortly before St. John’s Episcopal Church, seen in the right center of the photo, was demolished to make way for the Atheneum expansion. The commercial buildings further to the right would soon disappear, too. By 1915 they would be demolished to build the Municipal Building, located at the corner of Main and Arch Streets.

Today, not much is left from the first photo. The Atheneum is still there, and is partially visible behind the trees, and the only other surviving landmark is the Travelers Insurance building, which was greatly expanded in 1919 to include the tower in the center of the 2016 scene. The only other prominent historic building in this scene is the Municipal Building, which was completed about 10 years after the first photo was taken and still functions as Hartford’s city hall a century later.

Sheldon Street from Main Street, Hartford, Connecticut

Looking east on Sheldon Street from Main Street, on April 18, 1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

Sheldon St. east of Main

Sheldon Street in 2016:

Located in the southern part of downtown Hartford, Sheldon Street has undergone some significant changes in the past century. Most of the buildings from the first photo are late 19th century brick commercial buildings, and none of them are still standing today. Most would have been gone by the 1950s, when two major public buildings were constructed on either side of the street. On the left is the Hartford Public Library, which was built in 1957 and extensively renovated in 2007, and on the right is the Abraham A. Ribicoff Federal Building, which was completed in 1963 and houses the U.S. District Court along with other federal offices.

St. John’s Episcopal Church, Hartford, Connecticut

St. John’s Episcopal Church on Main Street in Hartford, around 1903-1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

St. John's Episcopal Church

The scene in 2016:

When this church building was completed in 1842, it was one of two Episcopalian churches along Main Street in downtown Hartford, and it was designed by architect Henry Austin in the Gothic Revival style that was popular at the time. The same style of architecture can be seen today in the Wadsworth Atheneum, which was completed just north of here only two years later.

The congregation remained here for over 60 years, but by the early 20th century this section of Main Street had become predominantly commercial, and the property was being eyed for an expansion of the Atheneum. The church sold the property in 1905 and moved to a new location in West Hartford, and the old building was demolished to make way for the addition. Today, the site of the church is now partially occupied by a small park, located between the Atheneum on the left and the Hartford Municipal Building, which is just out of view to the right.

Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut (2)

Another view of the Wadsworth Atheneum on Main Street in Hartford, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The building in 2016:

As mentioned in the previous post, the Wadsworth Atheneum is the oldest public art museum in the country. It dates back to 1844, when this building first opened, and although it has been significantly modified over nearly 175 years, the original Gothic Revival facade remains as a prominent landmark along Main Street. Among the museum’s artwork is an extensive collection of paintings by artists of the Hudson River School, a movement that was popular in the first half of the 19th century. The museum’s benefactor, Daniel Wadsworth, was a patron of Thomas Cole, one of the leading artists of this era, and many of Cole’s works are now part of the museum’s collection.

Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut (1)

The Wadsworth Atheneum on Main Street in Hartford, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The building in 2016:

The Wadsworth Atheneum is an art museum that has been located in Hartford since this building opened in 1844. At a time when most art collections were found within the homes of the wealthy, the Wadsworth was one of the first public art museums in the country. Its Gothic Revival building was designed by architect Ithiel Town, a Connecticut native who designed a number of prominent buildings, including the state capitols of Connecticut, Indiana, and North Carolina.

The museum was funded by the prominent Wadsworth family and built on the site of Daniel Wadsworth’s home on Main Street, diagonally opposite from the First Church. Over the years, additional benefactors such as Elizabeth Jarvis Colt and J.P. Morgan have expanded the museum’s collections, and along with it the building itself has grown, with additions to the back and on the right side. It remains in operation today as the nation’s oldest public art museum, and the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Elks Lodge, Hartford, Connecticut

The B.P.O. Elks Lodge on Prospect Street in Hartford, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The building in 2016:

Hartford’s Elks Lodge was built here in 1903, and over the years very little has changed on either the exterior or interior. The Neoclassical building is made of yellow brick, a popular building material at the turn of the century, and on the inside it is finished with oak and mahogany. It has two stories, with assembly rooms on the first floor and the octagonal lodge room on the second floor, on the other side of the arched windows seen here. The neighboring buildings have grown up around it during the past century, but the historic building remains, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.