Many people have shared photos of older buildings (usually churches) that stand today, surrounded by modern skyscrapers in a busy downtown area of a city. I have often commented that one of my favorite buildings is located in a similar setting. Last week, I had the opportunity to take some photos of that building. While looking into the history, I was surprised to learn about a period in Connecticut’s history. The form nominating Christ Church Cathedral to the National Registry of Historic Places, includes:
“The new state constitution of 1818 disestablished the Congregational Church in Connecticut. The Episcopal Church and other denominations grew rapidly in the favorable atmosphere created by the disestablishment. Christ Church, built within a decade of the new religious freedom in Connecticut, reflects the changing religious order in the state.”
“Disestablishment …?” My curiosity was piqued.
Connecticut is known as The Constitution State, because the Constitution of 1818 is generally accepted as the earliest document of its kind in America. But, Connecticut started as a religious colony, governed by “The Fundamental Orders.” Keeping in mind the history I was taught as a child – that the people who settled the original US colonies were fleeing England in search of religious freedom – my brief study of the Fundamental Orders was a bit of a shock. This is from Wikipedia (I know, I know):
“Connecticut was founded by Congregationalists who split away from the Massachusetts colony between 1635 and 1636. The first settlers founded three towns on the Connecticut River in Windsor, Wethersfield, and Hartford. One of the main purposes of the Fundamental Orders was to formalize the relationship among these three towns. The core foundation of the Fundamental Orders incorporates the ingrained religious background of the colony’s founders…
… Until 1818, the Congregational Church stood as the established church of the state. All Connecticut residents were required to attend church and pay taxes to support the Congregational faith. Anyone belonging to another Christian sect, such as Baptist, Episcopal, or Quaker, had to provide documentation signed by a church officer indicating attendance and financial support of their separate church in order to avoid paying taxes to the Congregationalists.”
Sorry for that diversion into the history of my adopted state. Now, back to the cathedral.
Christ Church Cathedral is the cathedral church of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. The cathedral was designed by Ithiel Town, and is one of the earliest known examples of Gothic Revival architecture in the United States. It was built between 1827 and 1829, although many modifications and additions have been completed since. The brownstone structure is divided into three sections by a large tower (the tower was completed in 1839). Each section has a doorway set in a two-story Gothic-arched recess, with a window above.
The diocese offices are located in an addition that also houses the chancel, chapel, and parish offices. The addition was built in 1879. Behind that, at the rear of the church property is a 2 ½-story chapter house that was constructed in 1917. All the buildings are constructed with brownstone, quarried in Portland, CT about 20 miles south of Hartford.
The sides of the church are five bays deep, with buttresses separating Gothic-arched windows, and brownstone finials at intervals along the roof line. The finial details are repeated at the top of the tower.
Of course, we’re here to talk about the doors, I have included a wonderful summary of the main doors (from the NRHP nomination form). I added an illustration to explain that summary:
“These are double doors with two vertical panels containing Gothic tracery in each. The doors are framed in a molded four-centered or Tudor arch. Spandrels and the transom above the doors exhibit tracery. Equilateral or pointed arched windows above each doorway have perpendicular tracery derived from English 15th-century with a heavy bowtell or roll molding. Above this is a hood terminating in stops sculpted in the form of human faces.”
If you are seeking architectural freedom, the Thursday Doors Colony (TDC) is the place to go. Founded by Norm Frampton, TDC accepts doors of all design, construction, material, color and condition. You are welcome, but not required, to participate every Thursday and there are no taxes. To join the colony, simply head to Norm’s settlement. Check out his doors and look for the blue frog. Click on that little tadpole, to add your doors or view doors from all over the world.
The gallery is larger today, as it includes additional photos from the NRHP nomination form.