Thursday Doors–Webster Memorial Building

Webster Memorial Building
It’s hard to get a photo of the door, since it sits back in the entrance and is often protected by the iron gate when I am passing through.

I drive by this building a lot, and even before I was on the lookout for interesting doors, I liked this one. It’s on the corner of the street that my barber’s shop is on and it’s only a few doors down. I took this photo on my way to get my hair cut. I’m not sure if the ironwork is original or if it was added during one of the crime sprees that seems to periodically plague Hartford. The city has already surpassed last year’s murder rate, but that’s another story for sure.

Despite its small size, Hartford has a very rich history. We celebrate Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Colt Firearms, the first Woolen Mill in America, as well as the fact that sewing machines, bicycles and machine tools were invented, or manufactured or innovated here. Insurance has enough history to let me form a subset of Insurance Company Doors and, to the point, Hartford has over 400 properties listed on the National Register, including 21 National Historic Landmarks. For a city of about 125,000 people, there’s a lot going on. OK, maybe I should say “a lot has gone on in the past” but I’ll cut the city some slack.

The Webster Memorial Building sits at the one of the prominent entrances to Hartford’s signature Bushnell Park, and the fact that this building hasn’t been blown up or torn down is a testament to someone’s foresight and appreciation of history. Sadly, both the interior and the exterior of the building have been renovated to the point that many of the original architectural details are gone from sight. The saddest part, according to the National Register application, is the fact the ceilings were lowered. I don’t know if that was a cosmetic lowering or if it involved the destruction of what I am guessing were beautiful works of plaster.

One of the things I learned while researching this little building is how much you can learn by reading the Nomination Form for inclusion on the National Registry of Historic Places. I learned, for instance that:

The building’s brick walls, laid in common bond with Flemish variation, rest on fieldstone underpinnings which are concealed above grade with brownstone facing. Brownstone also forms the simple lintels and sills of the rectangular window openings, now fitted with six-over-six double-hung sash.”

I also learned that the building was built as a three-family residence and that the three families included a tobacconist, a confectioner and a toolmaker. Until very recently, there was a tobacconist across from my barber’s former location in the city. I’m guessing there may still be a confectioner working in the downtown area, but there are no tool makers in downtown Hartford.

This building later served as home to Hartford’s Charity Organization Society, a private relief organization. The formation of this organization is said (in the nomination form) to have been one of the key developments of the Progressive Period. The idea was to streamline private giving into combined charities…hmm, that seems oddly familiar to the organization that dips into my paycheck week after week. You can read all about this in the nomination form, but I will leave you with one more extract that caught my attention:

On its 20th anniversary, the Society took pride in the fact that it had steadily reduced private charity outlays from $33,000 in 1890 to a little over $3,000 in 1910. By thoroughly investigating and counseling its clients, is felt it had largely eliminated the ‘imposition, indolence and debauchery connected with the pauperism of that time (the 1890s)’.

1890 seems like it was a tough time to be poor. Hartford still has a significant population in poverty today. I would like to think that the city and its surrounding suburbs have a better attitude toward the poor today, but I don’t think that’s really the case.

This post is part of the amazing and fun series of Thursday Doors started by Norm Frampton. You can join us on any given Thursday.

44 thoughts on “Thursday Doors–Webster Memorial Building

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    1. Thanks – It was hard to choose between the doors and the gates on these buildings. If yo have to have a protective gate, I appreciate your making it attractive and somehow in keeping with the architecture.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to get back over to those two houses and snag a doors photo. It’s been a long time since I toured the Twain house and (confession) I’ve never actually been inside the HBS house :(


    1. Thanks Norm. I’ve always like the proportions on this building, with the entrance being a bit overstated. It was interesting to discover that it was originally a residence. I think the original owner (who did not live there) also built the other buildings featured in the photos. I’m just glad they all survived the 80’s building boom (that left Hartford with a glut of office space).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks John. You were not mistaken. I am bugging my daughter to join me on a Hartford photo shoot, to stock up some door photos for the winter. The south end in particular has tons of lovely brick buildings with beautiful architectural features.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Elizabeth. I was amazed at how much history is included in the application and is thereby being preserved with the building. I figured those applications would be dry documents filled with dates and records of ownership. This was a pleasant surprise.


    1. I love that photo for the same reason. I wasn’t able to verify it, but I think these all might have been built by the same man, at or near the same time, but they really do look good together. Thanks for adding your observation.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. These are beautuful, Dan. I never tire of historic buildings and either their archtectural history or that of their early inhabitants. I never thought about reading the applications for registration so thanks for sharing excerpts. Hartford sounds like it has lots of treasures sadly tempered by lots of problems. I hope you explain in future posts. It’s probably many things but I hate to hear about increasing crime rates in a town of 125,000.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sammy. I don’t know what is driving the crime rate through the roof, or even if it’s the crime rate in general. I suppose you could have more murders than last year and still have less overall crime, although that boggles the mind. I never knew that you could see the application (nomination forms) or that they would hold such interesting information about the registered sites. I want to start poking around the other sites on the registry.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The crime and rising urban problems seem to have many moving parts. Some of it puzzles me because solutions seem so straightforward but obviously I don’t see the whole story. It’s quite discouraging for everyone, I imagine.

        I sense a few posts ahead from your poking around. Good stuff!


  2. Historical doors! Some good shots here, Dan. And the business about how the Society was trying to reduce private giving … interesting. I’ll have to look into that a bit more, but I share what I think is your wariness about the project, however well-intentioned it may have been. Good on ya, though, for looking into it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh goody, Thursday is here and Dan’s Door post is up. Now I go back up to the top of the post to read and then I will finish my comment. LOL
    “Sadly, both the interior and the exterior of the building have been renovated to the point that many of the original architectural details are gone from sight. The saddest part, according to the National Register application, is the fact the ceilings were lowered.” BOOOOO
    Even though it is not easy to get a good shot of the Webster door, you managed very well. I LOVE the ornate design of this door … it just feels so grand and important. I’m sure glad that those who renovated the building left the door. Whew! Someone had some good sense somewhere!
    Great post, one that I really enjoyed again. T’is a shame that the world in general turns its back on poverty and the poor. Not too much has changed there over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny Amy. I have always liked this door and this building. As I did a little bit of research, I find reasons to be sad about the history of the building, yet still very happy that people worked so hard to preserve it. Then, to read about the charity/poverty aspect, it made me feel that this building has closer ties to the city than I ever imagined. Thanks for your continued support over here, I appreciate it. I really wish I could go into Hartford, stand in the middle of the complex intersection and get the picture I want :)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Now I ask you …. Why are you not happy with what you are able to do? I think you do a fantastic job (strike that word … I don’t like it) effort in your artistic abilities both as a photographer and a writer. Come on … BE HAPPY! And yes, we ALL can have room for improvement I admit. With that being said … what you did achieve is outstanding! Now what say you?

        Liked by 1 person

      1. As far as I can remember, initially when I started reading your blog there were not many images per post, but now you’re really doing a tremendous job at it. I strongly believe (not just flattering around) that your posts come alive with those images. I feel like I am walking around those buildings. Awesome experience.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You are correct Sharukh. I used to include only one or two photos. I didn’t understand how WP lets you work with photos until last summer. I still have a lot to learn but people are responding better to posts with more photos. I like how you easily work the photos into the flow of the post.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I am finally arrived juggling a busy but good Friday. Hope yours is winding down and relaxed. There is something inexplicable about old brick buildings that evoke patriotism, history and generations of stories. I agree with Norm on the details and framing of the doorway making it draw your eyes in.
    Sad to hear about some of the renovations. I am sure histiorical preservation people realize what a big mistake it is to lower the ceiling or “cut corners” in taking care of a worthy building. I am tempted to show this to Mom over Labor Day to see if she remembers the building style and hear what she thinks about Hartford (where she attended elementary school.) It would be wonderful since her recent memory (short term) is fading faster than her long term. We have great fun going over life in her past, Dan.
    Last but not least, the old Tucks Candy Factory was built in 1908 and the place has been made into condominiums while the new candy factory still produces yummy candy and mails out at fairly high cost. My favorite is like Heath bar called Butter Crunch with pecan coating. One of my distant cousins runs a bed and breakfast called Tuck Inn. The pharmacy is still there. There are many stories about Motif #1 on the Internet including a Czech painter painting a picture of this local landmark and a couple purchasing it on South America! Crazy.


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