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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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