Back in April, I began an exploration of the Anne Street Historic District with some buildings along the southern end of the district, a.k.a. Pearl Street. There are many
stories doors in this western edge of downtown Hartford, but today’s will all come from one building. That building is St. Patrick and St. Anthony Church, a Cathedral-style Church located at the north end of Church Street, well, the north end before Interstate 84 cuts Hartford into two land masses.
St. Patrick’s is the oldest Roman Catholic church in the state of Connecticut. Located in downtown Hartford, the church serves an urban mission. According to the website:
“as a community of faith in service to the Archdiocese of Hartford and responding to the priorities of Holy Name Province, we welcome and extend hospitality to all people, especially the alienated and the poor.”
While St. Patrick’s is the oldest Catholic church today, it wasn’t the first Catholic church in Connecticut. That was the Holy Trinity Church. Holy Trinity was founded in 1829 to serve the thousands of Irish immigrants in the Hartford area. 20 years later, Holy Trinity had grown beyond its capacity. In 1850, they began building St. Patrick’s. The history from Holy Trinity to St. Patrick’s – St. Anthony, is a complicated involving fire, flood and shifting populations.
First, Holy Trinity burned in 1853. During that fire, most of the documents containing the church’s history were lost. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last time fire played a role in the history of this church. St. Patrick’s was consumed by fire in 1875 – the parish rebuilt the church on the same site. In 1956, the church was once again gutted by fire, and once again, the parish rebuilt, this time, within the walls of the original building.
Meanwhile, over on the east side of Hartford, the Italian immigrants were establishing their own parish. In 1895, an Episcopal Church located four blocks from St. Patrick’s on Market Street would become a St. Anthony’s parish’s first home. In 1921, St. Anthony’s had built a new parish around the corner from their temporary home.
While St. Patrick’s was fighting fires, St. Anthony’s was fighting water. The church was severely damaged in a terrible flood in 1936, and again in a flood resulting from the 1938 hurricane. That hurricane was the worst one that ever struck Connecticut and, apparently occurred before they started giving those things names.
While the two strong and spirited parishes survived fire and flood, they could not survive the migration of their parishioners to the suburbs after WWII. Again, from the combined church’s website:
“In 1957, Archbishop Henry O’Brien proposed the merger of the two parishes. As St. Anthony Parish disappeared in the dust of urban renewal, its parishioners and programs moved to St. Patrick’s and on October 25, 1958, St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish became official. It was this new infusion of parishioners and their generosity that was largely responsible for the rebuilding of the church after the disastrous 1956 fire.”
Of course, this post is part of Norm Frampton’s brilliant series – Thursday Doors. While the history of this/these churches is fascinating, the doors are amazing.
Every week, Norm gives us the opportunity to share interesting doors. If you want to play along, grab a door, head on over to Norm’s place and click the blue frog. Yes, the blue frog. But, before clicking on the tadpole, take a look at Norm’s doors. They are always worth a view. If you want to start a slideshow in this gallery, click on any image.