Main Street and Capitol Avenue, Hartford, Connecticut

Looking north on Main Street from near the corner of Capitol Avenue, around 1903-1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

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The scene in 2016:

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Very little has changed along this section of Main Street, which is part of the Buckingham Square Historic District. It consists of a number of historic buildings from the late 1800s, including several in this view. On the left is the Hotel Capitol, which was built in 1875, and on the other side of Capitol Avenue, in the center of the photos, are two slightly newer buildings. The yellow brick one to the left was built in 1895 by hotel owners Gilbert and Louis Heublein, and the one on the right is the Linden, which was built in 1891 as an upscale apartment building. The only building from the first photo that is no longer standing is the South Baptist Church in the distance on the right. Built in 1854 at the corner of Main and Elm, it was demolished in the 1920s after the congregation merged with another Baptist church. They formed the Central Baptist Church, which opened the present-day building on the same location in 1926.

Enfield Congregational Church, Enfield, Connecticut

The Enfield Congregational Church on Route 5 in Enfield, around 1911. Image from Some Old Time Meeting Houses of the Connecticut Valley (1911).

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The church in 2015:

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In terms of churches, Enfield is probably best known as the place where Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  The actual church that he preached in no longer exists, but it stood about a third of a mile south of here along present-day Route 5.  In 1775, a new church was built on this spot, and it was later moved across the street, where it still stands today as the Enfield Historical Society.  The current church, seen here, was built in 1849, in the Greek Revival style that was popular in the first half of the 19th century.  Its design was outdated almost as soon as it was finished, though. Not long after its completion, Greek Revival architecture went out of style, and most new church buildings in the second half of the century were either Gothic Revival or Romanesque.  However, over the years it has been the wood, white-steepled churches of the early 19th century that have become a symbol of small-town New England, and Enfield’s example survives today, essentially unchanged on the exterior from the photo over a century earlier.

J.R. Montgomery Company Buildings, Windor Locks, Connecticut

The J.R. Montgomery Company, along the canal in Windsor Locks in October 1939. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

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The factory in 2015:

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The town of Windsor Locks gets its name from the canal locks that were located here, which allowed boats to bypass the Enfield Falls just to the north.  More of a series of rapids than a true waterfall, the Enfield Falls are the natural head of navigation on the Connecticut River, and were a significant obstacle to river trade with Springfield and other cities to the north.  This problem was resolved in 1829, with the opening of a 5.25 mile long canal that ran parallel to the river.  However, it never became a major transportation route, because like many other early 19th century canals it was soon superseded by railroads.  However, at least one notable visitor did pass through here on the canal; author Charles Dickens traveled along the river on a steamboat in 1842, just two years before the construction of the Hartford and Springfield Railroad, which can be seen next to the canal in the foreground of both photos.

Although the heyday of transportation canals was short-lived, the Enfield Falls Canal was soon put to a different use.  Here in Windsor Locks, at the southern end of the canal, the 30-foot drop from the canal to the river made it an ideal location for factories.  Industrialist J.R. Montgomery established a thread and yarn factory here in 1871, eventually producing a variety of, as the sign atop the building reads, “Novelty Yarns” and “Tinsel Products.”

The brick building in the distance was built in 1891 and expanded to the north (further from the camera) in 1904. The white concrete section was added in 1920, so the entire structure combines 30 years of factory architecture styles into one building.  However, the Montgomery Company closed in 1989, and the building has stood vacant ever since.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but three fires and over 25 years of neglect have certainly taken their toll, so at this point the future of the historic property is certainly in question.

First Church of Christ, Wethersfield, Connecticut

The First Church of Christ in Wethersfield, photographed on July 29, 1940. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

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The church in 2015:

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The First Church of Christ in Wethersfield is one of the oldest existing church buildings in the Connecticut River Valley.  Along with Hartford and Windsor, Wethersfield was one of the original three towns in the colony of Connecticut, and today its Old Wethersfield Historic District includes around 100 colonial-era buildings.  The church was built in 1761, and like many New England churches of the era the main entrance is on the side of the building, with the pews facing the left-hand side of the building instead of the back.  Its steeple also reflects mid-18th century tastes, and it is nearly identical to the one on Old North Church in Boston.

Wethersfield is located along two of the three main routes of the old Boston Post Road, which connected New York and Boston, so over the years this church has had several notable visitors, including future presidents George Washington, who attended a service here on May 20, 1781, and John Adams, who climbed the steeple in 1774 while on his way to the First Continental Congress.  Washington’s visit was part of a five day stay in Wethersfield, when he met with French General Rochambeau at the nearby Joseph Webb House to plan the Siege of Yorktown.

At first glance, the church doesn’t appear to have changed much in the past 75 years, but there are a few differences.  In the 1880s, the church was renovated to bring it more in line with Victorian-era styles, which included long stained glass windows that extended almost from the ground to the roofline.  The building is partially hidden by trees in both photos, but some of the windows are visible in the 1940 photo.  In the early 1970s, the tall Victorian windows were removed as part of an extensive restoration that returned the building to its original 1761 appearance, so today the historic church doesn’t look much different from when John Adams stopped by on his way to Philadelphia, or when George Washington planned the final battle of the American Revolution across the street.

Main Street, Southington, Connecticut (2)

The view looking north on Main Street in Southington, from just south of Columbus Avenue, around 1885-1891. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

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Main Street in 2015:

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This view is very similar to the photos in this post, which were taken just a little further up the street beyond the intersection.  Unlike the other Southington photos that I have featured here, this one was not taken by the Office of War Information during World War II; instead, this image was from a 19th century stereocard.  In this scene, the Soldiers’ Monument on the green had just recently been dedicated, and most of the town’s Civil War veterans would have still been alive.  World War I was still a generation away at this point, and it would be more than 50 years before the OWI would capture photos of the town in the early years of World War II.

The only building from the first photo that is still standing today is the First Congregational Church. It is essentially unchanged from its appearance when it was built in 1830, and it is one of several nearly identical church buildings of the era that can still be seen in small towns throughout Connecticut.  Across Main Street is the town green, where the Soldiers’ Monument still stands today, although it is now accompanied by monuments to the veterans of the wars of the 20th century. The dirt roads around the town green in the first photo have several horse-drawn carriages, but within a decade or so automobiles would begin to appear, eventually leading to the paved roads and traffic lights of the present-day scene.

Saint Thomas Cemetery, Southington, Connecticut (3)

Another photo of the All Souls’ Day Mass in Southington’s Saint Thomas Cemetery, in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

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The cemetery in 2015:

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As seen in the previous two posts, photographer Charles Fenno Jacobs took a number of photos of the All Souls’ Day Mass.  This event probably had a special significance for those attending; it was right around Memorial Day, and some perhaps had already lost a loved one in the war.  Many of the others certainly would have had a son, grandson, brother, or husband serving in the military, and although they wouldn’t have known how long the war would last, it would end up being over three years before it ended.

Today, this section of the cemetery has hardly changed.  The two large crosses that Jacobs used to frame his 1942 shot look the same, and the only obvious difference – aside from the lack of people – is the addition of a few more headstones in the foreground.