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.

Travelers Insurance Company, Hartford, Connecticut

The headquarters of the Travelers Insurance Company at the corner of Prospect and Grove Streets, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2016:

Standing here for over a century, the building in the first photo saw a variety of owners and uses over the years. The original section was built in the early 1820s as a mansion, with owners such as Oliver Wolcott, Jr., the US Secretary of the Treasury from 1795 to 1800 and Governor of Connecticut from 1817 to 1827; Isaac Toucey, another governor who also served as a senator, US Attorney General, and US Secretary of the Navy; and Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, who served as Commissioner of the Patent Office.

In 1872, the building became the offices of the Travelers Insurance Company, one of many insurance companies that was founded in Hartford during the 19th century. They significantly enlarged the original building, but the company eventually outgrew it, and in 1906 they moved into a new building a block away, at the corner of Main and Grove Streets. A year later, they sold their old building to the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection & Insurance Company. The new owners remained here until 1932, when they demolished it to make room for the present-day building that now stands here.