Main Street, Southington, Connecticut (1)

Looking north on Main Street in Southington from along the town green, in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

647_1942-05 loc

The scene in 2015

These two photos were taken less than 75 years apart, but over that time most of the east side of Main Street has changed.  The First Congregational Church on the far right is still there, but all of the buildings beyond it are gone.  To the left, the Soliders’ Monument is still visible in both photos,

Town Green, Southington, Connecticut

The town green in Southington, seen from across Main Street facing west, in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.


The same view in 2015:

The first photo shows two houses that once stood on the west side of the town green.  They appear to have been built in the late 1800s, and were probably single family homes originally.  The one on the right was probably the older of the two; its Italianate architecture was popular for American homes in the 1860s and 1870s.  The house to the left, with its tower and many different gables, resembles the Queen Anne style that became popular in the 1880s and 1890s.

The older house still stands today, although it is now a real estate agency and a Masonic lodge.  It has clearly been modernized on the exterior, but it still retains some of its original features.  The American Legion building to the right of it, seen closer in this post, is also still standing, but the Queen Anne house to the left has since been demolished, and a large commercial building now occupies the lot.

Drum Corps, Southington, Connecticut (3)

Another photo of members of a youth drum corps in Southington, sitting on a park bench on the town green in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

The scene in 2015:

During his visit to Southington for the Office of War Information, Charles Fenno Jacobs took a number of photos of the local youth drum corps at the Memorial Day parade, perhaps to show the patriotic zeal of American youngsters.  Similar photos can be seen here and here, and they give a glimpse into the life of Americans at the beginning of World War II.  The four girls in the 1942 photo were probably in high school at the time, perhaps with fathers, brothers, or even boyfriends who had either already enlisted or maybe were facing the possibility of enlisting into the military. The outcome of the war was obviously very uncertain at the time; it had been less than a month since Pearl Harbor and it was just over a week before the decisive Battle of Midway would be fought in the Pacific Ocean.

Today, the four girls would be close to 90 years old, and while the bench is gone, the rest of the scene is relatively unchanged.  To the left is the Southington Town Hall, which was dedicated on December 13, 1941, less than a week after Pearl Harbor and less than six months before the first photo was taken.  To the right is a brick commercial building that once housed the town’s Post Office.  Both buildings are still there, and the Town Hall is still in use over 70 years later.

Drum Corps, Southington, Connecticut (2)

Members of a youth drum corps on the town green in Southington in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.


The scene in 2015:

Very similar to the angle in this post, the 1942 photo here shows members of a fife and drum corps at the 1942 Memorial Day parade. They are probably in high school, and they may be some of the same people seen in this post.  Today, the church is still there, as is the Town Hall to the right, although it isn’t visible in the 2015 photo.  However, all of the buildings to the left of the church are gone and have been replaced by parking lots.  As mentioned in the previous post, the tree in front of the church was standing in 1942; it had been planted in 1935 and can barely be seen beyond the bicycle in the lower center of the first photo.

First Congregational Church, Southington, Connecticut (1)

The First Congregational Church of Southington, seen from the town green in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

643_1942-05 loc

The church in 2015:

The caption of the first photo reads, “Southington, Connecticut. The First Congregational church, oldest of the town’s eleven churches looks substantially the same as when it was erected in 1830.”  In the 73 years since the first photo was taken, the church still hasn’t changed much, and its design is very similar to several other historic churches in Connecticut.  Its Greek Revival style architecture was popular for early 19th century New England churches, and this building was one of six in the state that were built between 1817 and 1830, using essentially the same design. Located in Old Lyme, Milford, Cheshire, Litchfield, and Guilford, all of these are still standing, although the one in Old Lyme is a replica of the original, which burned in 1907.

One noticeable difference between the two photos here is that the church is now partially hidden by a large oak tree.  However, the tree is actually visible in the first photo; it was planted in 1935 as the Tercentenary Tree, marking the 300th anniversary of the founding of Connecticut.  It is probably only about 8-10 feet tall in the first photo, and can be seen just to the right of the corner of the church.  It is still standing after 80 years, and it still has a plaque next to it, indicating that it was planted by the Hannah Woodruff Chapter of the D.A.R.

Memorial Day Parade, Southington, Connecticut

A view of the spectators at the Memorial Day parade on Main Street in Southington in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

642_1942-05 loc

The scene in 2015:

The first photo was taken by Charles Fenno Jacobs for the Office of War Information as part of the agency’s efforts to document life in a “typical” American town.  Some of the photos were distributed overseas as part of a pamphlet to promote American ideas of freedom, democracy, and equality.  This particular scene emphasizes the patriotism found in America, with the original caption reading, “Southington, Connecticut. An American town and its way of life. The Memorial Day parade moving down the main street. The small number of spectators is accounted for by the fact that the town’s war factories did not close.”  Even the caption has some subtle wording; the “small number of spectators” reference is clearly intended to imply that this large gathering is small by American standards.

The photo shows the Memorial Day spectators watching the parade from the town green, with the Soldiers’ Monument in the distance to the left and the First Congregational Church on the right side of the photo.  The scene in the foreground is interesting; the group on the left appears to be posing for a photo, with the young man in the band uniform as the photographer.  In between them, the girl in the white dress looks like she is crying; perhaps she is upset that she was left out of the photo, or perhaps she was left out of the photo because she was crying about not wanting to be in it.

Today, the church is still there, but most of the other buildings along Main Street are gone.  The place where the crowds once stood on the green is now the site of the town’s monument for veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.  On the other side of the monument are the names of all the men and women from Southington who served in those wars; undoubtedly many of the people in the crowd had children, siblings, and/or spouses who were serving in the military in May 1942 and whose names now appear on the monument.