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).
I’ve always been intrigued by this church. It’s less than half a mile south of the First Church, a.k.a. Center Church, which was established even earlier. In case you think the founding members of those early settlements were one big happy family, the establishment of South Church indicates otherwise. As in the previous two posts, I am including information from the National Registry of Historic Places (NRHP) nomination form.
Established by some of the founders and early settlers of Hartford after a division in the First Church, South Church continues a tradition of free Congregationalism which has endured from its beginning here under Thomas Hooker. After nearly thirteen years of doctrinal dispute during which many of the original withdrawers removed to Hadley, Mass., the church was finally given permission to organize by the General Court in October 1669. The Covenant to which the founders formally subscribed on February 22, 1670, is thought to be the original written by Hooker, and is still in use today.
The current building is the fourth structure to house this congregation. Again, from the NRHP nomination form,
The present meetinghouse of the Second Church of Christ in Hartford is the third oldest public building in the city and one of only four remaining erected before 1830. The third meetinghouse raised for the use of the church since 1670, it is located in almost the same spot as its predecessors on Main Street, south of the Park, or Little River. The present building stands on the houselot of the second minister, Thomas Buckingham (served 1694-1731) which was subsequently deeded to the church’s ecclesiastical society by his wife and son.
The Meetinghouse is a two-story rectangular brick building, 96 by 63 feet, in the Federal style, with steeple and trim of wood painted white, on a high base of red sandstone. With its columned portico and multi-stage steeple it suggests an adaptation of the classic church by James Gibbs, noted English architect. Tall arcaded windows on north and south, echoed by the round-headed doors and windows of the facade set in tall brick arches, are separated by pilasters, while the pedimented portico rests on four finely proportioned Composite (Ionic-Corinthian) columns.
In several other Thursday Doors posts where I’ve included church doors, I’ve received comments about the absence of a steeple, even thought a base appears and rises above the portico. In some cases, the steeples were destroyed by fire, weather or rot. In other cases, they were never built. When I noticed that the nomination form describes the steeple of South Church, in detail, I decided to include that description.
The steeple has five major stages in which the architectural elements of the portico are restated in classic sequence and in alternating simplicity and elegance of detail. The base, a square brick tower with clock dials, is ornamented on all sides with twin pairs of brick pilasters with wooden Doric capitals and architrave, surmounted by a balustrade of turned balusters and paneled pedestals. From this stage upward the spire is of wood. An octagonal belfry is next, with engaged Ionic columns at the angles separating arched louvered openings beneath Federal-style panels. The typical Ionic entablature leads to the third stage, a plain octagonal drum set off by circular molded casings quartered by key blocks. Three stepped setbacks support the fourth stage, which reflects the second on a reduced scale, but with the use of Corinthian columns. Its entablature is surmounted by an octagonal balustrade and the final stage, a plain octagon paneled above a heavy band course. From a simple cornice rises the ribbed metal ogee roof with gilded finial and weathervane. Despite its wealth of detail, the spire is carefully wrought into an expression of harmonious restraint.
The present building has not only served as a place of worship, but quite literally as a meeting house for the people of Hartford and as an auditorium for fine music from the day of its dedication, April 11, 1827. The Rev. Edwin P. Parker (served 1860-1912) regularly enlisted concert talent from Europe for meetinghouse performances. The ensuing musical vesper program continues to the present day. Hartford’s first public educational radio station, WSCH/FM, today known as WRCH, had its studios in the meetinghouse basement from 1963-1965 (maybe fodder for John Holton). The Fine Arts Foundation of Connecticut, Inc. was housed in the building from 1962-1967, conducting a variety of cultural programs.
The images submitted in support of the nomination included several interior photos. Since I don’t often get a chance to look inside, I’ve included more of the NRHP images than I normally do.
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