The Courant describes the plans for Asylum Hill Congregational Church

09/26/1864 |

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The Courant published a description of the church to be built by the Asylum Hill Congregational Society, based on a “photograph of the ‘front elevation’ now before” them.   The reporter described the plans as follows:

  • The whole structure, church and chapel, would be 184 feet long
  • The audience room of the church would be 96’ x 60’ with 186 pews
  • The lecture room of the chapel would seat up to 300
  • The chapel would also include a room for prayer and business meetings
  • The church tower and spire would be 185 feet high

The article also reported that the chapel would open onto a “street which is yet to be opened,” which is Huntington Street.

Neat little tidbit

The same column in the Courant included a report on the September 24 session of the Hartford Police Court.  Mary Walker, convicted of being a “common drunkard,” was sentenced to 30 days at the “town house,” which probably was the Town Farm.  The Town Farm was just north of the soon-to-be built church, its southern boundary being Collins Street. 

At the same court session, John Sullivan and William Cunningham apparently pleaded guilty to robbing William Tobin of his watch.  Their $200 bonds were forfeited, and Sullivan and Cunningham enlisted.

Trust but verify

Here begins the incredible adventure of the ever-growing steeple.  They didn’t know it today (probably), but the steeple would not be completed as part of the original construction of the church:  it would be built in 1875 and completed in August of that year.  At this point, the steeple is going to be 185 feet high, but it would be constructed as 220 feet high.L1  In between, it would be 200 feet high and 225 feet high,L3 and finally it would be 230 feet high.L4

Clearly, someone wasn’t satisfied with the steeple’s design, and between now and 1875 a series of changes would be made to the plans.  The reasons for those changes, unfortunately, so far elude my research efforts.

Put into context

The Courant reporter not only had the front elevation but also the architectural plans, which Patrick Keely had furnished to the reporter.  This confirms both that Keely was the architect and that by this date he had finished the plans for the building.  It also fits into the overall timeline, with Keely having been at work on the plans in July and the church society filing for permission to build in August.

The Courant reporter noted that on September 23 the newspaper had published a description of the new Congregational church being built at the corner of Asylum and High Streets, which was the new North, eventually to be Park, Congregational Church.  The reporter said that the configuration of the aisles in the two churches was the same, but the reporter described the new North as “magnificent” and the new Asylum Hill as “handsome.”  Over time, the Courant’s opinion of the new Asylum Hill Congregational Church would evolve:  it was the “most handsome” in April 1865 and “one of the finest” in August 1865.

Questions to pose

Keely was clearly in Hartford around September 26, 1864, but it’s unclear how much contact he had with the Asylum Hill Congregational Society at this point.  Did the Asylum Hill Congregational Society approve his meeting with the Courant reporter?  Did he participate in the permitting process?  When was the decision made for Samuel Coit to oversee the construction of the church?  Although, I suppose the reporter could have met Keely in New York.

Speculating without facts

Based on the article and the article from September 23, 1864, the new North Congregational Church was already under construction.  The builders of the new North were going to drive up to 900 piles into the ground to support the foundation of the new church, and they expected that that would take them into winter, at which point they would halt construction for the season.  Meanwhile, the new Asylum Hill Congregational Church was just getting permission to build.  Recalling North Congregational Church’s apparent opposition to the new Asylum Hill Congregational, it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t have cited their plans to get into the ground as an argument against a new church on Asylum Hill.  Ultimately, though, the ground would cause delays in the construction of the new North, while the new Asylum Hill church would be finished ahead of schedule – and ahead of the new North.

Sources

Unattributed, “The Asylum Hill Church,” Hartford Daily Courant, September 26, 1864, page 2.

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