Ados Israel Synagogue and the First Unitarian Church of Hartford
Located in the heart of the Ann Street Historical District of Hartford, CT, the building that once housed the congregations of both Ados Israel and the First Unitarian Church still stands to this day. The home of these two historic congregations is itself considered historically important, as it represents one of the better-preserved examples of Hartford’s colorful architectural legacy.
Backstory and Context
The First Unitarian Church on Pearl Street was constructed
in 1924 by Milton E. Haymon, an architect whose other works are spread across
the city of Hartford serving various purposes.
He did not predominantly design religious buildings according to the records
of his work that still remain, with one of his other recognized works in
Hartford being a residence not contained within the Ann Street District.
The church building itself was designed in the Georgian Revival style of architecture, which was also frequently referred to as the Colonial Revival style. This style features the Greco-Roman inspiration of the Colonial Style, mixed with distinct features that became popular throughout America during the 19th and early-20th centuries. Gabled roofs with dormer windows blended seamlessly with colonnades and proud facades characterize the style, both of which are visible in the First Unitarian Church. Uniquely, the church also features a tall, arched window on the street-facing side of the building – a feature which is not often seen in Georgian Revival buildings.
The Unitarian congregation of Hartford came together as early as 1844. At this time, they were known as the First Unitarian Society. With a faithful community, they founded their first Hartford church, a small meeting house known as the Unitarian Church of the Savior, in 1846. The congregation would meet here for nearly 40 years before moving to another small church named Unity Hall.
Another forty years would pass until the congregation was ready to move their home again. In 1924, the church commissioned Milton E. Haymon to build them a fine church which would prove to be their home for yet another 40 years, at which point the Unitarian church sold the First Unitarian Church building to Congregation Ados Israel, an equally historic religious group within the city.
Ados Israel was the very first Orthodox Jewish group in the city of Hartford, tracing their roots to a group of Eastern European immigrants who arrived in Hartford in 1872. From 1898 until 1963, Ados Israel met under the roof of the Market Street synagogue, at which point they moved to what would be last Orthodox synagogue in Hartford – the old First Unitarian Church.
When the synagogue closed its doors in 1986, it was bought by a telephone company, who then sold it to the Pearl Street Neighbor TheatreWorks who still own the building to this day. The First Unitarian Church is one of the defining structures that qualified the Ann Street Historic District for its place on the National Register of Historic Places, a recognition that has helped preserve Ann Street and the surrounding neighborhood as a beautiful mosaic of 19th and early-20th century Hartford history.
Libov, Charlotte. Hartford's Last Synagogue. The New York Times. October 05, 1986. . https://www.nytimes.com/1986/10/05/nyregion/hartford-s-last-synagogue-closing.html. Times article focusing on the closing of Ados Israel
Timeline of History. Unitarian Society of Hartford. . Accessed November 25, 2018. http://www.ushartford.com/about-us/history/. The history of the Unitarian Society as kept by their internal historians
The Ann Street Historic Distric. National Park Service National Register of Historic Places Database. November 28, 1983. Accessed November 25, 2018. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/9e1c0361-bfaa-4aa4-857d-7b03317028e4/. Official Documentation of the Church's inclusion on the NRHP
Ados Israel. Historic Buildings CT. April 17, 2016. Accessed November 25, 2018. http://historicbuildingsct.com/ados-israel-synagogue-1924/. Blog documenting the history of Ados Israel