Thursday Doors – Windsor Locks Congregational Church

Main Door
Main doors.

With Easter right around the corner, it’s hard not to feature a church door today. I picked this one because I thought it would be easy to photograph and easy to write about. I was somewhat wrong on both counts.

Tucked in between the Post Office and Walgreens, the church really isn’t all that easy to photograph. It’s made harder by the fact that Windsor Locks has “one-sided” downtown district. I’d argue that, today, Windsor Locks has no downtown district, but the town is trying to create one. The one-sided nature is due to the fact that Dexter, I’m sorry Ahlstrom’s paper mill, occupies the east side of Main St. throughout most of the downtown area. The other significant portion of downtown is occupied by the abandoned Montgomery Building. Dexter and Montgomery both thrived for decades on the industrial island between the Windsor Locks Canal and the Connecticut River. Dexter still thrives, and we live in hope that a viable use for the Montgomery building will be found before it deteriorates further.

As I mentioned in an earlier doors post, Dexter has been a good neighbor and a very good corporate citizen. In the era when being able to walk to a good job at the mill was important, those mills helped Windsor Locks establish itself. The fact that the town lacks an important downtown district today is more the result of the warped thinking of some self-appointed-important people in the 60s. Ours was the kind of Urban Renewal that Joni Mitchell made famous in her song Big Yellow Taxi in 1970 – we didn’t know what we had, and now it’s gone.

Unlike most of the churches that I’ve featured, I wasn’t able to find a good source of history for the Windsor Locks Congregational Church (WLCC). I know that the original congregation grew from the First Church Congregation a few miles down the road in Windsor. Much of what is written about the WLCC is actually tied to the history of that more famous church than this beautiful “offshoot” as it is referred to. WLCC was first established in 1844 when Windsor Locks had slightly less than 300 residents and the church membership was fewer than 20, but when traveling 5 miles was still a challenge. This excerpt is from a 1900 book on Windsor Locks history:

In 1846, when the membership had increased to twenty, Rev. Samuel H. Allen was called to the pastorate, which he held with great acceptance for sixteen years. During that time 113 were added to the membership, 36 dismissed to other churches, 14 died, and two were excommunicated – a gain of 61.

The church was partially destroyed by fire in 1877, but the records I was able to find are not clear as to how much of the church was destroyed and what portions of the existing structure were constructed subsequent to the fire.

What is clear from the history is that most of the significant families of Windsor Locks were members of this church. You can almost tally the early membership of the congregation by rattling off the street names in the downtown area. The land that the church sits on was deeded to the congregation by a descendant of the Dexter family for $1. Recently, another interesting financial transaction played an important role in the future of Windsor Locks’ downtown district, and this church.

One of the Dexter Corporation buildings sat on the major corner of Main St. and Elm St. When the building was abandoned by the new owners, it sat empty for several years, until Walgreens expressed interest in building a drugstore. Some residents, spurred on to a degree by outside interests, opposed development on that parcel, citing the “historic” nature of the abandoned building. I put historic in quotes because the building was of a modern design and stood out in the historic district like a sore thumb. In a second attempt, Walgreens made several noteworthy concessions. First, they agreed to add a little park space to the southeast portion of the lot. Second, they agreed to build the store in keeping with the other historic buildings in the area. Third, and perhaps most interesting, they agreed to give a portion of the land to the church, in order to solve a long-standing parking problem.

The second attempt by Walgreens met with success. Supporting the town’s hallmark church still seems to matter.

This post is part of Thursday Doors, an interesting and fun series orchestrated by Norm Framptom. Check out Norm’s page to see his door, and a link to the other doors this week. You can also add a door of your own and join the fun.

59 thoughts on “Thursday Doors – Windsor Locks Congregational Church

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  1. This is a stunning photograph, Dan. The history of this church may be vague but the age is outstanding to have existed for so many years. In the church I used to attend more regularly, we would have an evening service and we celebrated somberly Maundy Thursday and Good Friday then a Happy Easter vigil early Sunday.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A beautiful door, Dan, and appropriate as you say, to feature a church door for Easter. Our church doors will be open, metaphorically speaking, today, tonight, and tomorrow night for Maundy Thursday (or Monday Thursday, as our girls used to like to call it) and Good Friday services and then again on Sunday for the big Easter service. What a wonderful time of the year!

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m rather partial to relatively modest looking churches with a grand steeple. This one fits that bill :)
    My first reaction when I saw the front door though was ‘someone doesn’t understand how to play x’s and o’s’ ;)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s funny. It does look like they need to add a row :) It was challenging to try to get a picture that showed off the details in the brickwork (particularly on the steeple) without backing into the street or getting run over by a mail truck. I wish I had found more about the history, but I’ll take is as is. Thanks for stopping by,

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  4. I’m not sure you need Easter for an excuse to feature church doors, Dan. Many of your Thursday posts have focused on churches. But hey, I’ll take it. There’s nothing like a red, arched door (especially one resembling a tic-tac-toe board) surrounded by brickwork. Very nice. Interesting, too, how people’s objections to a new building magically melt when you make sure that you retain the historic look of the area … and throw in a parking lot to sweeten the deal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Paul. Churches are such a good source of door photos. The tic-tac-toe connection escaped me at first, but I think you’re right. The ruckus over the Walgreens was somewhat comical, with people arguing for a park to be built, linking this corner to a small shopping plaza. There was talk of forming a Historic District, which many of the homeowners in the area didn’t want. When I read about Walgreens offering the land to the church, I realized that they had figured out the process.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Deborah. I do like the doors. I struggled to get the photo of the steeple that I wanted, but there wasn’t a good place from which to get it. I’m happy with what I have, at least I had a nice blue sky.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s always a blessing to get a great sky!

        Yes, I noticed that tree was probably in the best spot to get the steeple. A Tilt-Shift lens would come in handy for times like this. One is on my wish list, and will probably remain on it for a long time to come.

        We photographer’s are a funny lot when it comes to skies. We want blue skies with just the right amount of clouds, not cloudless flat blue skies. :)

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        1. I’ve seen the tilt-shift lens being advertised. I doubt there’s one in my future. I’m very happy with this camera. I’ve often thought to go back to my DSLR, but the weight really got to be an issue with my shoulder injuries. Now, of course, I’d want a new one :)

          Liked by 1 person

          1. and then some!

            I hear you on the weight issues. It was a huge factor in my decision to go with the Df.
            My little Lumix FZ200 is as light as feather compared to my DSLR! I just can’t make it sing as well so I’ve not given up on my DSLR’s yet.

            The new Nikon P900 looks interesting. There’s a guy in one of my forums making really good images with it. The 2000mm zoom equivalent is amazing to think about!

            I always have a case of GAS going. = Gear Acquisition Syndrome. I think I’m a hopeless case. :)

            Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the arched windows with the red brick decorative molding. They are gorgeous. Thanks for another history lesson, Dan. I keep thinking that I need to start sharing the history of the Fox Valley, doors or no doors, because it’s such a pretty and growing area.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mary. I am always interested in learning about the history that sits right around us. New England has so many little town greens and churches, that I’ll likely never run out of material. I’d love to see the doors & other stuff around your area.

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  6. There’s something simple, but imposing about that church — perhaps its grand steeple. I love it, of course, and its narrow windows, too. I love the concessions made, and wish there was more of that here. Keeping anything seems to be lost on most Midwesterners. One day I’ll write about it. For now, I’ll just say that the Walgreens park is adorable and well done on them.
    Another great doors post :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joey. I think Walgreens would have loved to plop down the basic store to compete with the CVS two blocks to the north, but I was happy to see them move the way they did. The complaints were instigated by a woman who was also trying to run the restoration of our Train Station for her own benefit. She didn’t even live in the town. Walgreens made a good move when they offered the land to the church. It never hurts to get the congregation on your side. The park is a nice touch, but, for now, it’s mostly ignored because there is no foot traffic in town. Maybe someday. At least we have a nice corner.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s wonderful that the community has been able to preserve an important part of its history! I like the narrow windows as well. They reminded me of churches in England.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a beautiful old brick church Dan. We don’t have many like that down here – brick being a problem in earthquakes; in the big jolts it tends to collapse. But I love the warm red of it. Pity about the addition of the wooden gable, is that what it is called? I suppose it was added to protect people from inclement weather but it does jar on the eye a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jill. I’m not sure what to call that roof. I would agree, they probably added it to protect people, but it does stick out. They didn’t have many options in building it though, the property is narrow and that’s a very active driveway.

      I never thought about brick buildings not being good in earthquakes. That makes sense though.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Regardless of the obstacles you faced, I think you have really good pictures here, Dan. There is something about that door that just draws me in …. the arch, the x’s and o’s, the brick, the color of the door itself. And I do thank you as well for the history lesson. We in this country tend to brush off history in replace it with newer and bigger. Thank goodness some of still look back at history to learn from it. :) <3

    Liked by 1 person

  10. From your photos taken in the distance, it’s clear that this church is definitely a landmark! Kudos to Walmart they were willing to cooperate. Simple but definitely early Gothic design, but the windows sizes are modern (i.e bigger). When this door was put in, I wonder I what the X and O stood for, or was it just a matter of decoration, do yu know? (I can’t imagine that it would stand for the same as what people mean with xoxo). Happy Easter to you!

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  11. Dan, another great read. The photographs are nice. It’s good to know that Walgreens built that particular store to blend in with the buildings. In one of your photos, you wondered if a piece of the structure was added on because it doesn’t seem to fit. I think so too. One of these days I’ll photograph a door and see if I can bring out its history the way you do! Have a pleasant weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dan, thank you for such an interesting post about the church! What history is has! You did a fine job displaying it, bringing out its past all the way up to the present. Wonderful pictures too, and although I’m sure it was difficult to photograph, I’d never know it. Super job! Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They did do a pretty good job. It’s sad that the big chains have forced all the small pharmacies out of business, but it was good to see them try to fit in and give something back.

      Like

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