The Courant reported on a series of improvements to Asylum Hill, all of which were taking place on the same block as the future Asylum Hill Congregational Church. These improvements were:
Neat little tidbits
The new street was Huntington Street, but it hadn’t been named that yet. The Asylum Hill Congregational Society bought the land along Asylum Avenue from F. J. Huntington and B. E. Buck, which means that the church could just as easily been on the corner of Buck and Asylum.
The Courant described these improvements as taking place in Hartford’s West End, which in fact it was. Development in Hartford was densest along the river, and by 1864 it did not go too much farther past Sigourney Street, with only a few houses westward to Woodland Street.
Put into context
The Asylum Hill Congregational Society didn’t just buy the land for the church, it bought the entire block, or what would become the entire block once Huntington Street was pushed through. The total purchase described by the Courant was approximately 382 feet along Asylum Avenue, and today, that frontage remains the same: the church plus the condos at the corner of Sumner and Asylum equals 382.9 feet. The 1880 map shows the church occupying roughly half of that frontage, with three houses, including two that were later demolished, occupying the other half. Roughly gauged, the two demolished houses would have sat on the current Asylum Avenue frontage of the church’s parking lot. The driveway off of Asylum Avenue roughly approximates the location of one lot, and the little lot off the drive in corresponds to the other lot.
Questions to pose
This may settle the question as to what happened on February 19, when the site was accepted, and June 29, when the site was approved. Since they bought the entire block, they then had to choose which part of the lot would serve as the actual site. They could then parcel off the remainder of the lot and sell it for development or, potentially, as developed by them. It is worth considering, however, that the chapel would be designed to open onto the yet-to-be-created Huntington Street. Did the chapel influence the street, or did the street influence the chapel?
And what exactly did the church do with the three lots that became houses by 1880? Who built the houses, and when? And did the church sell the properties to a developer or build the houses itself?
Also, when subsequent articles tabulated the cost of the church including the land, did they mean just the land the church occupies or the whole lot? If the latter, they may have inflated the actual cost by roughly $5,000.
Speculating without facts
The Courant said that all of the land purchased would be graded and fit for building purposes. This is not to say that the church then built the three houses, but in making improvements to the land and then re-selling it, the church almost certainly would have made a profit. In all likelihood, the church put that money toward the construction of the church itself, but I haven’t found anything to suggest this is what happened.Related Chronicle: