Clay Hill – Part 2

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Since I found a wealth of historical information and photographs from within the Clay Hill district in Hartford, Connecticut, I decided to share the credit (and the work) for this week’s post with the folks at the National Registry of Historic Places (NRHP) – actually, that would be the US National Parks Service.

Today’s post is entirely focused the Faith Congregational Church formerly the Clay Hill Windsor Congregational Church and its parish hall. The text of this post and all but two of today’s photos are from the NRHP nomination form.

The Romanesque Revival brick building now known as Faith Congregational Church was built for the Windsor Avenue Congregational Church in 1871-1872 to the design of Samuel J.F. Thayer of Boston. The 62′ x 75′ structure faces west close to the sidewalk in the north end of Hartford on a street that was named Windsor Avenue, now Main Street. In the 1870s the area was developing as a desirable residential neighborhood north of Hartford’s downtown. Many of the contemporary houses remain standing, as seen in Photograph 1, which shows an Italianate-style house close by to the north and a Queen Anne house to the south. There has been some commercial intrusion as well.+ The facade of the church is dominated by a strong central gable which is flanked by a square tower to the north and an apsidal-shaped wall to the south. The composition is asymmetrical but balanced. In the wall under the central gable is a two-story recessed wall arch which contains the front entrance aedicule, second-story windows, and diaper work. (Photograph 2) Steps with three risers approach the heavy double wooden door of horizontal and diagonal battens on diagonal flush boards under a blind transom with guatrefoil. There are corner stones left and right of the doorway, that to the left reading “1871,” the date of construction of the church, that to the right reading “Talcott Street Congregational Church,” the name of the church from which the present congregation is descended. The round-arched doorway has brick voussoirs alternating in colors black and red. The use of black brick for accent continues throughout the exterior. Horizontal lines are provided by the stone water table, short stone belt courses about two feet above the water table which connect left and right with a black brick belt course, and a black brick belt course partially obscured by the gable of the doorway.

At the second floor paired round-arched windows are contained in three round-arched apertures. The windows are defined by engaged colonnettes. A black brick belt course connects their capitals. Above the windows a bold black brick diaper pattern fills the wall arch. The voussoirs of the arch repeat the alternating red and black brick pattern of the arch over the doorway. In the center of the tympanum an oculus is glazed with a quartrefoil, repeating that in the doorway transom.

The parish house, known as Hillyer Hall, Isaac A. Alien, Jr., architect, was built behind the church in 1904. It is a two-story 55′ x 84 ! brick building with corner buttresses, round-arched fenestration, and diamond glazing, in these respects taking its cue from the church, but at the same time the parish house clearly has its own identity. (Photographs 3 and 12) Independently of the church design, Hillyer Hall has first-floor windows which are rectangular, a one-story three-sided bay in the south elevation, and a roof overhang. The roof is hipped with a central gable flanked by small triangular louvered dormers. Yet the second-floor recessed wall arch over the bay is reminiscent of its counterpart which frames the front entrance of the church.

National Registry of Historic Places – Reference Number: 93000174

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    • I’m not sure when those houses disappeared, Wayne but they’re not there today. I don’t know when they were built, but Main St. was still a very active throughway. I think there would have been trolley service into the city and the roads leading away from Main St had only started to be established. Next week, I’ll provide a bit of that history – sneak peek, it was mostly still farm land.

      You have some wonderful doors today, one of which provides an optical illusion of sorts.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I was unable to go inside. The interior photos are from the nomination form. I would love to hear the organ. The church was gutted by fire early in its history, but the walls, the alter and the organ were spared.

      I enjoyed traveling with your family again today. Beautiful street scenes.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I rarely get a chance to go into the places I find, so when the NRHP nomination form has interior photos, I just have to share them. It will keep us in this district longer than I planned, but, as you say, those interior doors are interesting.

      I was sucked in by the word “random” in your post title today. I enjoyed that.


    • I always love it when I find so many pictures in the NRHP nomination form. I’m snapping a few photos from wherever I can find a parking place. Those photos are from a photographer who was tasked with presenting the building in the best possible light. There’s a job for you Manja :)

      You might not be able to tell Koper is a port city, but you can tell it’s a beautiful city. Thanks, as always, for supporting Thursday Doors.


  1. A very imposing building, to say the least! With that parish house next to it, it certainly claims a prominent place in the lives of people there. Or at least it did at one time. The photo of the room in Hillyer Hall shows that you really had to sit up straight there. I am partial to the photo of the single window. I think that’s a beauty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad I kept the window photo in the group. I was paring this down to 16 images, and I almost dropped the window, but I also really like that photo. I think the church is still active. It’s hard to tell. This neighborhood is resilient, but it has fallen on hard times and it has largely been ignored by the city :(

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Impressive building from all angles. That front entrance would make anyone want to come to Jesus! I love the black brick highlights. The Sunday School room is bigger than the entire church I was married in! And I love the room with the curved wall. Would love to hear that organ!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The church is deceiving. The size of the interior spaces seem larger than you would imagine from the outside. The church I was raised in would fit inside this one several times. I would love to hear that organ. Te church was gutted by fire in 1959, but the alter and the organ were spared. I like the details they worked into the brick and stone, especially the buttresses on the parish house.

      Stay cool today, Ginger.


    • The congregation has changed over time, but it still is in use. It began as the Trumbull St Congregational Church, which would indicate it drew attendance from the city center as well as the north end. Then it was the Clay Hill Windsor Congregational Church, which would indicate that it drew members from the south end of the town of Windsor, which is at Hartford’s northern border. I think it changed to Faith Congregational Church in the 1980s or 1990s, as that’s how it’s referred to on the nomination form. Those name reflect the changing nature of this area of Hartford, which, unfortunately, has been treated badly by the city. The north end of Hartford was cut off from the city, first by rail, then by Interstate 84. The south end of Windsor was cut off from Windsor by Interstate 291 in the 1980s. The district that lies between those highways needs attention from both towns.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. These old churches are so pretty. Look at that day care room! I’m glad you included a photo of the structure–such a work of art.
    Growing up in NJ, my grammar school and the church were attached, but true to the Catholic rule of keep space between the sexes, the rectory was on one end of the campus and the convent on the other. 🙄

    Liked by 1 person

    • As if that was going to help.

      The Congregational churches I’m familiar with are lively parishes. I could imagine some great discussions going on in “the parlor” with the minister, the elders and a few of the old ladies (who really ruled everything).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great photos! The church basement intrigues me. I’d say there’s potential for orb pictures down there and my mind immediately went to a story about the secrets the basement holds. :) Thanks for sharing, Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Dan,
    I always learn some history from you post. Always interesting to peek back in time. My last photo today is that of a church. I only got one cause there no parking to be found, and there was so much scaffolding around it. Your post has inspired me to go back. I may even get so inside shots. 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Indeed a grand church. Your use of B&W adds to the collection. The first (upper left) pic caused a chuckle. Cincinnati’s Music Hall is a grand building. When looking closely at the peak, people can tell (during construction), the two sides of the peak weren’t coming together just right. Thanks Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Frank. I love it when I find those older photos. I marvel that they were able to get these buildings anything close to square, given the tools they had in 1871. I’d be hard pressed to do as well today. Still, anything that invokes a memory and a chuckle is a good thing,


  7. Hi Dan – an impressive building … which still stands ‘tall’ … I’m always amazed at the architecture and the decorative brickwork used in the build. Interesting about the history of the layout of Hartford not being kept together for its residents – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you liked this, Hilary. Hartford and Windsor (town on Hartford’s northern border) have neglected this area for as long as I’ve lived here. It’s a shame. There’s so much history here. I think the people deserve better.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you liked that. I wasn’t able to get around to the back of the property to photograph the parish house, so I was happy to find photos in the nomination form.

      Love the scene at your doors today.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Photo 16 was exceptional with that sky backdrop! I wonder if the daycare room still has the overlooking balcony. I can imagine how useful it could be to have a bird’s-eye view of the whole room.

    Liked by 1 person

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