S: Old St. John's Church Hartford, Connecticut UricchioS
BC: St. John's Church was was founded in 1841 in Hartford, Connecticut. This is the story of its first building which was constructed in 1842 and demolished in 1907. The parish then relocated to West Hartford, where it flourishes today. | William J. Uricchio, a congregant of St. John's Church, is volunteer Parish Historian. He holds master's degrees in history (University of Connecticut) and library science (University of Rhode Island).
FC: Old St. John's Church Hartford, Connecticut 1842-1907 William J. Uricchio
1: Old St. John's Church Hartford, Connecticut 1842-1907 William J. Uricchio
2: Second Edition, Revised Copyright, 2018 by the author
3: Hartford's Christ Church (shown here) was facing a serious space crisis in 1841. To remedy this situation, a new parish named for St. John was formed a few blocks to the south.
4: The new parish built its church in 1842. It was constructed of brownstone in a Gothic pointed style. At the time of the building's consecration, it was said that the steeple was one of the highest in New England. The architect, Henry Austin, would eventually become prominent for designing a number of highly regarded buildings. His New Haven City Hall is still in operation.
5: Just to the north of St. John's, the Wadsworth Atheneum, now the oldest continually operated public art museum in the United States, opened its doors almost at the same time. The Atheneum would later play a very important role in the future of St. John's.
6: As seen in this engraving from the early 1850s, St. John's (at left center) was in a prime location just south of Connecticut's State House (behind the trees at front left).
7: The church was a large building with over 800 seats. The organ, shown at right, was relocated several times and was originally in a loft over the front entrance. The parish was known for its music program among other attributes.
8: St. John's, seen here on the right (east) side of Main Street, was one of many downtown Hartford churches but, for a number of years, only one of two Episcopal congregations. Its numbers grew quickly.
9: The church's steeple was weakened in a fierce gale in 1875 and began to lean on windy days. In the interest of public safety, it was eventually taken down.
10: St. John's central position put it at the heart of the city's development. The Hog (Park) River, on its way to the Connecticut River in the distance, went under Main Street just south of the church.
11: This photograph, looking north, was taken near the Hog (Park) River bridge sometime after 1875. The area to the south of the church became less residential and more commercial as the nineteenth century wore on.
12: The coming of trolley tracks (St. John's is in the distance), made it increasingly possible for Hartford's workers to move out of the city. St. John's began to lose members to competing churches in the growing suburbs.
13: By 1905, the time of this photograph, St. John's was having various problems with its mechanical systems and with increasingly empty pews.
14: Along came Hartford native J. P. Morgan, one of America's richest men (pictured above in 1910). Eager to add a memorial to the Atheneum in honor of his father, he provided funding to buy St. John's building and adjacent properties.
15: The parish, intending to relocate to the growing suburbs, sold the church and property to the Atheneum . The last service in "Old St. John's", was Easter, 1907, after which the building and nearby structures were torn down.
16: The "Morgan Memorial" was constructed at the north edge of the St. John's property. In one way, St. John's is still there - its bricks were used for the Memorial's foundation.
17: Today's St. John's parish occupies a splendid building in West Hartford. Opened in 1909, and expanded since, it was designed by famous architect Bertram Goodhue. This is his illustration of the church as built.
18: Individuals with national/international reputations who were affiliated with St. John's Hartford included: PARISHIONERS Elizabeth Jarvis Colt who, as the widow of Col. Samuel Colt, ran Colt Firearms during the Civil War. Gideon Welles, President Lincoln' Secretary of the Navy. Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. CLERGY Arthur Cleveland Coxe, St. John's first Rector, eventually became the second Bishop of Western New York. William Croswell Doane, the third Rector, served as the first Bishop of New York's Albany diocese. STAFF Dudley Buck, Jr. The Church Organist as a teenager, he became one of 19th century America's most important musicians.
19: Notes: This book contains copyrighted material and may not be reproduced or distributed without the express permission of the author. _______________ Illustrations are from the author's collection excepting pages 7 and 17 which are from the St. John's Church archives, page 14 from the Library of Congress, and page 15 from Geer's Hartford City Directory, 1907. _______________ Read More About It: A History of Saint John's Church, West Hartford, Connecticut, 1841-1995 Gary E. Wait, 1996 Available at the church: www.sjparish.net A History of Saint John's Church, Hartford, Connecticut, 1841-1941 Nelson Rollin Burr, 1940