Public speculation on the site for Asylum Hill Congregational Church

03/28/1864 |

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The Courant reported that the “new church that is to be on Asylum Hill” would likely be located on a lot extending from Farmington Avenue to Asylum Avenue, between the District School House (West Middle) and the home of Mark Howard. The owner of the lot, William W. Turner, who was described as a deacon (he was the principal of the American Asylum), had named a reasonable price at which he would sell the land for “church purposes.” The only impediment was a brick house then occupied by D. W. Bartlett, but “that would have to come down.”

Neat little tidbit

This lot is roughly just to the east of Asylum Place, where The Hartford has a parking garage today.  West Middle School would have been approximately where Asylum Place is.  All of this was directly across the street from the American Asylum.

Trust but verify

This location contradicts Atwood Collins’s historyL1 of the February 19 meeting, at which point Collins said the current site of the church had been accepted.

There’s some mild confusion in the Courant article.  The article refers to the property in question as having a brick home occupied by D. W. Bartlett, not D. E. Bartlett, on it – and it’s likely a mistake on the part of the Courant.  There was a David W. Bartlett, no apparent relation, who had been co-publisher of the Hartford Republican, but he’d moved to Washington, DC in 1857.  D. E. Bartlett, of course, makes much more sense:  he was a teacher at the American Asylum, which was just across the street from this house, and he’d been invited to return to teach at the Asylum by W. W. Turner, the principal of the school and the owner of the house.  Plus he was involved in the formation of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, but that isn’t entirely relevant here, even if it leads to some speculation ….

Questions to pose

The article describes this current lot as “more satisfactory than the spot first selected, on various accounts.”  Since we know that this spot was not the final spot, where was this first spot, the one less satisfactory than this location?

Speculation without facts

At this point, and based on the research I’ve done so far, there’s no way to sort out whether the church historians or the contemporary Courant reporters have this right.  I’ll be honest, though:  it’s much more fun to think the Courant has it right, because that would mean the church contemplated evicting one of its founders!  Or, it could be that the Courant had been fed misinformation – the Courant had suggested Asylum Hill property owners get their prices ready, so it’s possible the church told the Courant they’d selected a site in order to let prices calm down after the Courant encouraged speculation.  Whatever it turned out to be, the most interesting part of the article is that this was not the first site, nor was it either of the two sites debated on February 6.  I would like to think that the church thought better of mistreating Bartlett – significantly, Bartlett’s house would be described 50 years later as one of the first shelters of the church!

As it turns out, the church did much better by moving a block farther west – they couldn’t have known it in 1864, but this location, so close to the Trident, would have been a nightmare for traffic.

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