Aaron Bissell House, South Windsor, Connecticut

The house at 1891 Main Street in South Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:


Aaron Bissell, Jr. was a leading resident of East Windsor at the turn of the 19th century. At the time, the town included all of present-day South Windsor, and Bissell operated a tavern here in the village of East Windsor Hill. The tavern, which is no longer standing, was located just south of where these photos were taken, at the corner of Main Street and Ferry Lane. Along with running the tavern, Bissell was also involved in the local government, serving as town clerk from 1799 to 1825, as well as several terms in the state legislature.

In 1812, a few years after his daughter Sophia’s marriage to Eli Haskell, Bissell built the couple an elegant brick house, which is seen in the distant right of both photos. A year later, he built a nearly identical house for himself, which is seen here in the foreground. Both houses are excellent examples of Federal-style architecture, and they are built of brick, which was far less common than wood-frame homes during this era. The main front sections of the two homes are virtually identical, but additions over the years have changed the appearance of the rear of the houses.

Bissell lived here in this house until his death in 1834, and the property was then purchased by Increase Clapp, a blacksmith. He lived here for the next 25 years, until his death in 1859, and his son Carlos then inherited the house. By around the turn of the 20th century, the house was owned by Lewis Sperry, a lawyer and politician who served two terms in Congress, representing Connecticut’s first district in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1891 to 1895.

The first photo was taken about 15 years after Sperry’s death, and almost nothing has changed since then, except for the removal of the front porch. Both this house and the neighboring Haskell House are well-preserved, and they are two of the many fine 18th and early 19th century homes that line South Windsor’s Main Street. In 1986, both of these homes, along with the rest of he surrounding neighborhood, became part of the East Windsor Hill Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

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.