Trinity Church Et Al – Thursday Doors

Welcome to Thursday Doors, a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments below, anytime between 12:01 am Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time).

In one of my doorscursions around the Asylum Hill neighborhood in Hartford, CT, I turned down Sigourney St. and discovered Trinity Episcopal Church. The magnificent building, brilliant red doors and large wrought iron hinges caught my attention instantly. In looking for information about the history of this church, I checked their website and found a message that I think is particularly important today.

“Trinity Parish was founded in 1859 by twelve families living in the Asylum Hill neighborhood of Hartford. At that time, the common practice of churches was to raise funds for their operation by the rental of pews. Trinity was a pioneer in Hartford in making the decision to be a ‘free’ church where, there being no pew rents, any person ‘no matter what his or her wealth or poverty’ might find spiritual nourishment. This commitment was reaffirmed at the cornerstone-laying of the present building in 1894 by Colonel Jacob L. Greene, who said:

“Here no one is to be higher in right or privilege than another, this common and equal right being based on the common and equal need which each one has of divine help.”

The next thing that I discovered on the church’s website was very interesting to me (a guy who delights in building things).

“Trinity’s first building, a former Unitarian Meeting House, was moved stone-by-stone to the present site. Construction on a rectory (now the Parish House) began in 1881. Between 1892 and 1898, … Goodwin Hall was built and the original church building replaced by the present one. The education wing was completed in 1961 to mark the parish’s 100th anniversary.”

Trinity Church has a few stately neighbors, including The Aetna. When I moved to Hartford in 1981, Aetna was a large comprehensive insurance company (life, health, liability, personal lines and property). As a consultant for Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co. I spent hundreds of hours every year in the early 1980s reviewing complex computer systems in order to certify to our auditors that the results those systems produced were reliable. Recently, Aetna merged with CVS and formed one of the largest health insurance companies in the United States. Since this is Thursday Doors, it is also noteworthy that at the time of its construction in 1930, Aetna’s main office was the largest colonial-style building in the world and the largest office building in Connecticut. From the company’s website,

“The move to this ‘suburban campus’ was extraordinary in that it was considered an inconvenience for employees in an era when most did not own automobiles. To compensate for this, the building originally provided many amenities, including a state-of-the-art cafeteria, a store stocked with the same merchandise carried by downtown merchants, bowling alleys, squash and handball courts, tennis courts, a basketball court and a library.”

The building was built with brownstone and four and one-half million locally made bricks. The main corridor is 1/8 of a mile long (0.2 km).

Directly across from The Aetna is Saint Joseph Cathedral. The original cathedral was consecrated on May 8, 1892. Unfortunately, during morning Mass on December 31, 1956, “worshipers complained of smelling a fire. Firefighters were summoned but they could not discover its source until late morning when flames shot up into the wooden ceiling. Windows shattered as by an explosion; the roof fell, and everything within the cathedral suffered from the uncontrolled flames. Before late afternoon all that remained was a charred, smoldering, ice-encrusted ruin.” Almost immediately, plans were drawn up for a new cathedral. From the cathedral website,

“Archbishop O’Brien presided over the formal ground breaking on September 8, 1958. During the 1957-1959 period of construction cathedral parishioners attended Sunday Mass in the auditorium of the Aetna Life Insurance Company building, directly opposite the cathedral site. Daily Masses were celebrated in the school auditorium. The lower church was blessed by Auxiliary Bishop John F. Hackett on December 24, 1960, and at midnight Archbishop O’Brien offered the first Pontifical Mass there.

Meanwhile the work on the main cathedral, which was to seat 1,750 proceeded steadily. On May 15, 1962, the Bishop consecrated the new cathedral.”

Hopefully today’s gallery will function as it should. Clicking on any image will bring up a slideshow. The Happiness Engineers assured me that yesterday’s problem has been solved.

If you are in a hurry and don’t wish to scroll through the comments, click to Jump to the comment form.

138 comments

  1. In a way, I’m a church aficionado. Wherever I travel, I visit the local churches. They capture history, people’s longings, like no other structure. Thank you for this morning’s informative adventure and beautiful photos. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re right about churches, Gwen. Trinity church tells a an interesting story, especially since it is et in what was a fairly upscale neighborhood in the 19th century. I’m guessing their approach to serving all, regardless of status, was a bit rogue in the day.

      Like

  2. It says a lot about the people that they didn’t sit on their laurels but they rebuilt almost immediately. It was a different time. Well, all the doors are beautiful but my favourite is the final wooden door. I do love wood.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fabulous red doors on Trinity Episcopal Church. The entire structure is fabulous. I also love everything about the original St. Joseph’s Cathedral. It’s so sad to see the parishioners watching their beloved cathedral being destroyed by fire. These folks sure knew how to get back up, dust themselves off, and rebuild. You have to admire that.
    Ginger

    Think positive. Test negative.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s true, Ginger. they bounced back quickly. I think I prefer the style of the original cathedral, but you have to admire the effort. I liked reading that they held services in the auditorium of the Aetna until they could once again hold them in their own building. I think that shows the kind of community spirit that existed back then. I wonder if that would still be the case today?

      Like

  4. A wonderful tour, Dan. The churches are terrific. I was very interested in the suburban move of Aetna. That was a big deal in the day. It seems with the amenities, workers could come in the morning and then take care of any needs without having to leave the building. It eminded me of the Pacific Bell complex. Not a thing around it, but inside was a gym, cafeteria, and store.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was interesting reading about Aetna’s history, John. Today, that building is considered to be in the city, certainly not suburban. When I worked for Wayeraeuser, they were the same way. Campus out in the woods, with everything you’d ever need. They even had lakes and hiking trails, and the encouraged employees to bring their family onto the grounds on weekends. One big happy.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I liked the little writing challenge you gave us today, Teagan :-)

      I suspect we’ll see a story from you that is set on Asylum Hill. I have two more posts from this area. Next week, will be a famous duo that I think you will appreciate.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Who would have thought…pews for rent. What a world. I think they should just revive tent services by traveling ministers with area families taking turns hosting them . Ahhh…sawdust ‘floors’ and paper fans. Such a fun time for us as youngsters. That thought aside, those churches are magnificent. I can only imagine the horror of watching the original church go up in flames. I did not know about the Aetna/CVS marriage. That explains CVS’s quick access to new vaccines, etc. It became our preferred pharmacy for service, value and insurance compatibility. Thanks for another interesting tour and history lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had never heard about the Pew Rent, but it doesn’t surprise me. When New England was settled, the Congregational Church was the governing body. You paid “taxes” to them whether you were a member or not. I remember revival meetings. We had a church building, but we had revival meetings in the park in the summer with a visiting evangelist.

      Like

      1. I suppose it is logical, considering the European history of the church. As kids we loved running around after the service, kicking up sawdust and feeling the night breezes. My very favorite event was the monthly ‘dinner on the grounds’ where, after service, we had a churchwide potluck. We always waited patiently for the last key of the benediction to race out and beat the crowd to my Mom’s fried chicken and perfect potato salad (no onions!).

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I like leftovers, and yours were very nice!

      Brick building, red doors, it’s hard not to like that. The rescued building is an interesting “merger” of styles, but at least they saved the building from the wrecking ball.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The pew rental concept was new to me as well. People were taxed by the church around here, but that was in the 1600s and early 1700s. The complex, with the red brick buildings, arched entrances and red doors was certainly calling me.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What great history for these buildings–especially Aetna looking to accommodate their employees–a bowling alley?! Must have been hard to return to work when all you wanted to talk about was how you should have made that spare! Rent a pew…that reminds me of when I was younger and you’d arrive shortly before Mass was to start. You’d look for a pew and people would have missals stretched out–‘saved’ for whoever. Then we started having ushers who would walk up and down the aisles and hold up their fingers for however many were in your party and tell those seated to move over to accommodate those who needed seats. Some people (you know, the good Christians), refused to give up their aisle seat so just raised the kneeler and you had to climb over them. Good Catholic church memories!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hanging onto your favorite pew, is like holding a parking space in a snowstorm. My mother had the same pew for over 75 years. Nobody else dare sat in that pew. When we attended church after she died, the minister’s wife recognized us and made people move out of her pew. We said it wasn’t necessary, but she insisted – “Betty would want you in her pew.” Just like when we were kids.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Thanks you for looking up all that history, Dan. so many interesting details like the locally made brown stone, and pews for rent (ingenious way to pay off the building). Love the black doors at the bottom. Very interesting is the image you got a hold off, above the black doors above, of the fire! That probably meant that they heated the building! Towers are always one of the first thing I look at. Wow, the amenities of the suburban campus, no wonder people here are so entertainment-directed. Their bosses spoiled their workers:) Here are my shop doors, and thank you for your cheerful comment:)
    https://wp.me/p9EWyp-2DR

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jesh. There’s actually a video of the fire. It’s about five minutes long. I almost included it, but there’s already a lot going on here. So many churches burned here when they began heating them in the late 1800s, but I was surprised that this burned in the 1950s.

      I worked in a suburban campus (outside of Seattle, WA) where they had all those amenities. You could do everything just by going to work, shop, work, exercise, etc.

      I enjoyed your shop doors. The idea of open shops in a downtown area is very appealing in these lock down days.

      Like

  8. Ooo, what a magnificent post today, Dan. I loooove all these red doors and especially the rainbow flag above. And what a grand entrance to this second church!! Could easily be in Italy somewhere. I’d love to see this door from closer. For now I resolved the matter of your little photos by enlarging your entire site by way of ctrl+. Much better.

    I start my new series today. We are in Viterbo, possibly on the last ordinary day of this world. Welcome.

    https://mexcessive.photo.blog/2021/01/28/thursday-doors-28-1-21-viterbo-1/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry the photos don’t display larger for you. They look OK on my end. They aren’t very high resolution, as I’m trying to extend my storage. I pay WordPress enough as it is.

      I love your new series.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. These are lovely pictures, Dan. The red doors are very eye catching and special. Isn’t it fun that you worked for the same firm I do. Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co when you were there and now KPMG. I work for the Johannesburg branch in South Africa. I love my job but hate corporate life i.e. admin and corporate politics.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is funny, Robbie. I knew you were an auditor, but I didn’t know the firm. They dropped Mr. Mitchell right away. I have business cards from Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co, and Peat Marwick. They started working with KPMG just as I was leaving. We actually had a Partner in the Hartford Office who had transferred from the South Africa office. I don’t miss corporate life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When I finally get to retire [my situation is quite complex as there is no-one to replace me and I’ve been at the firm and know the people for over 20 years] I will not miss the admin or politics. I do like the mental challenge of the work, and I am very good at putting the puzzle together [hence the fact that I am needed].

        Liked by 1 person

        1. “putting the puzzle together” – that’s the skill that got me through 42 years in my career, consulting and in private business. The admin and politics is everywhere.

          Like

    1. Thank the Happiness Engineers, Don. It took about three hours but they figured out that an upgrade they made broke the carousel on this gallery option. Thank you for letting me know.

      Like

  10. Hi Dan,
    I was interested to read the background to the free church as I’ve come across that before in my family history research and have wondered what it meant. I try to be egalitarian so that fits in very well with my outlook.
    Of course, the red Cathedral doors were my favourite. Not sure if you know me well enough, but red’s my colour and I drive a red Alfa Romeo these days and it’s very much MY car.
    With the start of the new school year here this week, I’ve picked up on a different theme this week and have photographed the entry door to the dance studio where my daughter’s been dancing for about 11 years. Writng this post really consolidated what it meant for our family to walk through that door , and how we’ve been transformed: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/01/29/thursday-doors-back-to-dance-2021/
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I had never heard of “pew rents” before reading this church’s history, but I liked the stance they took on the issue.

      Thanks for sharing the story that began with entering that special door. Your daughter has had a wonderful journey. I wish her all the best in her future.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Dan – wonderful photos … and like you the red doors with their beautiful hinges really stand out proud and strong. Well I’m glad they didn’t pull down the buildings to replace them, but utilised the land effectively.
    The facilities have made me think about the sports and leisure parks that sprang up at some stage – perhaps the 1930s … owned and run by large organisations … presumably to encourage employees to stay with them.

    The Cathedral was pretty impressive … while the fire almost looks like the Notre Dame one … i.e. flames and smoke in the roof … Stunning doors of the new Cathedral … presumably they’re bronze?

    Fascinating post – all the best – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Hilary.

      I think it is interesting to look at the role that large companies filled. The 1930s were tough time, with the Depression ongoing, and then WWII followed. After the war, companies continued to be a focus, almost an identity, but that started to wane in the 1950s. There were still many “cradle to grave” companies out there, but many of them were losing their position at the top of the heap. I still hear about companies that seem to care for their employees and work to foster a family relationship, but I think it’s more rare.

      The cathedral fire had to be devastating to the parish community. To have something magnificent destroyed before your eyes…I can’t imagine. The new cathedral is impressive, but many feel it is too modern in appearance. Of course, it was built as the Roman Catholic Church was struggling with its identity.

      There wasn’t enough left of the original cathedral to consider rebuilding, and sadly, almost all the interior artifacts were lost. Notre Dame fared a little better in that regard. I hope they are able to rebuild and preserve that magnificent cathedral.

      Like

  12. hi dan
    nice history and could imagine them moving stone after stone
    and then it sounds like a brilliant idea to have the amenities to make uo for the far location – who knew those ideas of a mega place went back like that
    and sad about the one that burned

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Yvette. Moving the church, stone by stone, plays into the Yankee spirit – waste nothing – but It had to be a Herculean task. The Aetna’s main office is an amazing building. I had the opportunity to attend a meeting in the president’s office, at the top of that main entrance. It was surreal. That a man would go to work in such a place was astonishing.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome to Thursday Doors. I do think the best thing about doors is what’s behind them. These days, we don’t get to see that very often. Your post was wonderful, and I appreciate the images of the memorial.

      Like

  13. Lovely church buildings and their majestic doors, Dan. Churches always have ornate or very colorful doors; the red doors are very striking and beautiful! I’m going to have to return to read your blog in detail later.

    I’m hoping the posting deadline is still open as I’m on my Hawaiian time again. Here’s the link if it is accepted:

    https://undiscoverdimagesamongstus2.wordpress.com/2021/01/30/thursday-doors-1-28-2021-all-about-big/

    Liked by 1 person

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