horace bushnell congregational church, hartford, ct, connecticut, main street

Thursday Doors: Horace Bushnell Congregational Church

Deb Historic Doors, Historic Preservation, Thursday Doors 31 Comments

I am doing some volunteer freelance photography over the next few months for a local not-for-profit that is publishing a book of architectural styles in Connecticut from various time periods. I’m excited about it for a couple of reasons: first and foremost, my photographs will be in an actual hard cover book, with my byline (pretty cool!)

Second, the project is taking me to sites around the state that I have never seen or heard of before. I enjoy exploring new places and it’s especially rewarding to see something new “in my own back yard”.

horace bushnell congregational church, hartford, ct, connecticut, main street

The church at its full height is imposing indeed.

Such was the case for the Horace Bushnell Congregational Church, which is currently utilized by the Liberty Christian Center, on Main Street in Hartford. As I approached the church in my car, I was surprised by the size of it. It’s quite imposing from a distance but as you get closer its beautiful details come into focus.

church, hartford, horace bushnell congregational, ct

This angle gives you a sense of the length of the church.

The story of this church begins in 1850, when Hartford’s Fourth Congregational Church was built on Main Street in the downtown area. In 1913, the original church property was sold for commercial development.

According to Historic Buildings of Connecticut, a prominent local architect convinced the congregation to keep the church’s original steeple and portico and use them on the new church. Due to his foresight, these two important pieces of a historic structure were incorporated into the church you see here completed in 1914.

steeple, horace bushnell congregational church, ct, main street, connecticut

Note the incredible craftsmanship of the steeple.

The details of the portico and steeple are outstanding. Do you see how the small columns that are part of the steeple mimic the large columns of the portico? And the repetition of the dentil molding on both as well? It’s one of those times that the closer you look, the more you see.

The Fourth Congregational church merged in 1953 with Windsor Avenue Congregational Church to become the Horace Bushnell Congregational Church. The church and the surrounding area has seen better days, but at least the building is occupied and somewhat maintained.

portico, steeple, horace bushnell congregational church, hartford, ct, connecticut, main street

Another view of the portico with its elegant scrollwork.

Horace Bushnell was a Congregational clergyman and theologian. Born in the village of Bantam in the Litchfield, CT hills, he farmed until his early twenties. At that time he entered Yale University where he continued his schooling for ten years and earned four degrees.

He entered the ministry in Hartford where he had great influence. He was known for challenging the New England Puritan orthodoxy and introducing the concept that Christianity was a matter of lifelong spiritual growth. He wrote a number of books including his best known, Christian Nurture, which was republished most recently in 1994.

I’m not a student of religion or a particularly religious person, but I think I’m glad he influenced a shift away from the Puritans.

horace bushnell congregational church, ct, hartford, main street, steeple

Stunning from every angle.

Many from Connecticut and the Hartford area in particular may recognize the Bushnell name for a couple of reasons. Horace Bushnell was responsible for proposing and obtaining approval for Bushnell Park, the first public park to be created with public funds in the country.

Horace’s daughter, Dotha Bushnell Hillyer, conceived and built the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford. The Bushnell theater remains the premier venue in Hartford for a wide range of entertainment, from musicals to comedies to the symphony.

Photographing some of our historic architecture has the added benefit of introducing me to our local history, and important citizens such as Horace Bushnell who shaped where I live today.


This post is part of Norm 2.0‘s weekly Thursday Doors round-up. Take a peek and consider joining in!

Enjoy this post? You may also like First Church of Christ, Wethersfield and South Church in New Britain.

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Comments 31

  1. Hello!!

    Some of your information is incorrect in this! Horace Bushnell Congregational Church no longer exists. The church was renamed sometime between 1998-2002 to Liberty Christian Center Internation (LCCI). The current pastor, Dr. Keith A. Bolton, was in fact the pastor of “Horace Bushnell Congregational Church” and re named his church to LCCI. Just to clarify the language you used, we are not “Utilizing” Horace Bushnell Congregational Church. We are LCCI formerly know as Horace Bushnell Congregational Church.

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  2. Workmanship like this is lost today. I suppose it would cost a fortune to have intricate carvings, and moldings on buildings today. The building is lovely, and I thought it was State office building at first.

    Congratulations, and best of luck with your project!

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      Yes, that’s why I believe preservation is so important otherwise it will be lost to us forever. No one can afford this detail anymore. Thanks so much for your comments!

  3. The Bushnells must have been some family! I’m a descendant of the Chapins of Springfield (puritans at the beginning and now a conglomeration of all sorts of saints and sinners!) Quite an imposing bit of architecture. No doubt the puritans would object – lol!

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  4. This was super. I seem to recall another Bushnell Congregational Church. Sure enough, it was in my boyhood home of Detroit (I Googled it) I remember driving by it on the way to my grandmother’s house. Small world.

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  5. What a great opportunity for you Deb, congratulations! I’ve not had the pleasure of visiting, or even seeing this one yet. This church building has a phenomenal amount of gorgeous details as well as great history! That is one of the reasons I love these historic old churches! I’ll be sure to share this one!

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  6. Congratulations on the book opportunity! The buildings built in earlier days so often had beautiful details and loving care taken to make them beautiful. Seems like that is too often missing these days or on available if you have sufficient money. To be fair, artisans, time, and materials do cost money, but it seems to me there could be less coookie-cutter sameness and more beauty at all levels.

    janet

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      I agree Janet! I think many years ago there were so many more craftsmen because it was considered a valuable profession. There are so few now by comparison and as a result I’m sure their prices are sky high. Good for them, but means less beauty overall for us!

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  7. Congratulations on the project! Great shots of the church; I especially like the ones showing the details common to the steeple and portico. Looks like they carried that through on the new church, too. It’s great when these older buildings get some love. 🙂

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      Thank you, Marian! I love the detail of the portico and steeple, too. The workmanship is just amazing to me. It is wonderful to see our old buildings appreciated!

  8. You are very lucky to have so many beautiful buildings around ! Even if they are not always very old, they have a certain class that you don’t see everywhere. The US has much more to offer than we in Europe realise. Thanks for sharing these pictures!

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      You are welcome Geert! We do have some incredible architecture here to see – lucky for me since my travel opportunities to Europe are limited! Although I have a number of places on my list 🙂

  9. That’s a nice gig, Deb, congrats!
    I love this for the strength it presents, but yes, all the details are intriguing. There’s some real love and talent of craftsmanship in this one, fersure. Great framing with those barren branches, too.

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      Thanks, Joey! It’s a volunteer gig as they couldn’t afford to hire professionals, but hey, I’ll take it! I’m honored they will have me 🙂

  10. That really is a very imposing structure. At first I thought it was a museum or perhaps a government building – a gorgeous structure.
    Congrats and good luck on that photo project. I can tell you’re excited and with good reason, it sounds like it will be lots of fun 🙂

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      Thanks, Judy! I have to say I was very impressed when I pulled up to the church. It’s a massive structure. Always makes me a bit concerned when I see signs of disrepair, but at least it’s inhabited and I would like to think the community won’t let it get too bad before jumping in to help.

  11. I love this building. I have photos of it an the surrounding buildings, which I think is one of the most impressive areas in which to walk in Hartford. Good luck on the photo series Deb, that sounds like a very fun and interesting bit of work.

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      Really an incredible building – so glad I was introduced to it! I wasn’t able to spend extra time that day walking the neighborhood but I would love to go back. I don’t love these pics of the church so I may go shoot it again. The day started off much brighter and I shot at another spot first, but by the time I got to the church it had become much more grey and overcast. I’ll send these to the editor and see what she thinks 🙂

  12. I love your blog and your Instagram account. Keep them coming. I left act over 20 years ago for a career in DC and have been homesick ever since. Your photos often bring me home. Thank you!

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      Hi Beth – thanks so much for following along! It’s wonderful to get such positive feedback, too – thank you. I’m glad that my photos bring you back home again – that’s the ultimate compliment 🙂

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