Post Office, Southington, Connecticut

The Post Office building on Main Street in Southington, in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

651_1942-05 loc

The building in 2015:

Like the nearby Town Hall, this building was fairly new when the first photo was taken.  It opened in 1940, and was one of over a thousand post office buildings in the country that were constructed during the New Deal era.  Intended to provide jobs as well as new buildings for communities across the country, many of these post offices are still in use today, including this one in Southington.  It was later expanded with a sizable addition in the back and to the left, but the exterior of the original 1940 section remains essentially unchanged from the first photo.  Even parts of the interior are the same, including a mural by Ann Hunt Spencer, which can be seen in this 1942 interior photo of the post office on the Library of Congress website.

Town Hall, Southington, Connecticut

Southington’s Town Hall, seen facing north toward the First Congregational Church in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

650_1942-05 loc

The Town Hall in 2015:

Of all the photos taken by the Office of War Information in Southington during World War II, this scene is one of the few that shows almost no change over the past 73 years.  The church, which has stood there since 1830, is still there, although it is now partially hidden by the large oak tree in front of it.  This tree is the only prominent difference between the two photos; it appears in the 1942 scene as a small sapling, barely visible in the shadows to the left of the church.  It had been planted in 1935 by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1935 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding of Connecticut.

The Town Hall is the newest thing in the scene; it was dedicated on December 13, 1941, less than a week after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the start of World War II.  Less than six months later, it was included in the OWI photo series with the caption, “Town hall, in which all of the people meet to make their own laws.”  Since this was intended for a pro-American propaganda pamphlet in Europe, the wording of the caption expresses both the democratic nature of the town meetings, as well as the egalitarian aspect of it, with the word all implying that every citizen has an equal voice in town government.  Today, the building is still used as the Town Hall, but Southington has since adopted a council-manager form of local government, meaning the citizens no longer “meet to make their own laws” here in an open town meeting.

First Congregational Church, Southington, Connecticut (2)

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

649_1942-05 loc

The church in 2015:

As mentioned in this post, the First Congregational Church in Southington is one of several nearly identical church buildings in Connecticut that were built between 1817 and 1830.  This particular angle gives a good view of the Greek Revival style portico, which is supported by four tall columns.  This is a common feature on many early 19th century New England churches, from traditional wood-frame ones such as Old First Church in Springfield, to brick churches like the First Church of Christ in Hartford, and even some stone ones, as seen in Quincy Massachusetts and Portsmouth New Hampshire.  The style represents somewhat of a transition from the relatively plain, simple Puritan-influenced meeting houses of the 18th century, such as the one still standing in Rockingham Vermont, to the more elaborate Gothic Revival and Romanesque churches that would come later in the 19th century, such as the Central Congregational Church in Boston.

Today, the six nearly identical Connecticut churches are still standing, except for the oldest of the group, Old Lyme Congregational Church.  It burned in 1907 and was rebuilt as close to the original as possible.  Aside from that, the others have been well-preserved, including this one in Southington, for which 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.”  It was likely included in the Office of War Information photo series to illustrate the town’s long history of religious activity, with the reference to “eleven churches” probably a subtle hint about the religious freedom and diversity that Americans enjoy.

School Children in Southington, Connecticut

A group of children, made up of teenagers and younger children, on the town green in Southington in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

648_1942-05 loc

The scene in 2015:

The caption of the first photo is “Southington school children staging a patriotic demonstration,” and it is probably related to the town’s Memorial Day observances.  It is part of a series of photos taken in Southington by the Office of War Information, to be published in a propaganda pamphlet overseas.  The intent of this photo was probably to show American sympathizers and other potential allies about the patriotism expressed even by young children, although the only overt display of patriotism in this particular scene is the American flag that the young girl on the tricycle is holding.

Today, the scene has not changed too much.  The two buildings in the background are still there: the town hall on the left, and a brick commercial building on the right.  The town hall opened less than six months before the first photo was taken, and it is still in use today, and the commercial building was probably built in the early 1900s.  The storefront once housed Southington’s post office, and in the 2015 photo it is apparently vacant and boarded up.  Both buildings can also be seen in this post, which was taken from a similar angle.

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.