St. John's Episcopal Church (West Hartford, Connecticut)

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St. John's Episcopal Church
A black-and-white image of the church building in 1955.
The church building in 1955.
St. John's Episcopal Church is located in the US
St. John's Episcopal Church
St. John's Episcopal Church
St. John's Episcopal Church is located in Connecticut
St. John's Episcopal Church
St. John's Episcopal Church
41°45′59″N 72°43′02″W / 41.766502°N 72.717326°W / 41.766502; -72.717326
LocationWest Hartford, Connecticut
CountryUnited States
Former name(s)St. John's Episcopal Church (Hartford, Connecticut)
Founded1841 (1841)
DedicationJohn the Apostle
ConsecratedJune 9, 1909
April 28, 1996
EventsAccidental fire on October 10, 1992
Functional statusActive
Architect(s)Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, Lee Lawrie, Richard Krissinger
April 16, 1995
DioceseEpiscopal Diocese of Connecticut
RectorRev. Susan Pinkerton
Assistant priest(s)Rev. William Eakins
Rev. Hope Eakins
Deacon(s)Rev. Walter McKenney
Organist/Director of musicScott Lamlein
Religious education coordinatorJanet Babbitt

St. John's is an Episcopal Church located at 679 Farmington Avenue in West Hartford, Connecticut near the Hartford, Connecticut, city line. The parish was founded in 1841[1] as St. John's Episcopal Church in Hartford. The church's present building, designed by famed architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, opened in 1909.[2] It is noted for its reredos designed by Mr. Goodhue and executed by prominent sculptor Lee Lawrie;[3] its organ, Opus 2761 by Austin Organs, Inc., with 64 ranks and 3721 pipes;[4] and its thirty-six stained glass windows by designers/manufacturers such as the Harry Eldredge Goodhue Company of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Wilbur H. Burnham Studios of Boston, Massachusetts, and London, England's James Powell and Sons.[5]

Congregation history[edit]

St. John's Episcopal Church was founded in 1841,[1] in downtown Hartford, Connecticut. Its first building was designed by Henry Austin (architect).[6] An activist organization,[1] St. John's was instrumental in the development of other prominent Hartford area churches including the Church of the Good Shepherd and Parish House, St. John's Episcopal Church in East Hartford, and St. Monica's, the second Episcopal congregation in the state for African Americans.[7] As the nineteenth century progressed, the western suburbs became increasingly popular as a place for city dwellers to live with the result that the number of St. John's worshipers was in decline.[1] In 1907, financier J. P. Morgan purchased the church building and its property for the construction of a memorial gallery to be added to Hartford's Wadsworth Atheneum. The congregation then moved to suburban West Hartford, Connecticut, which was undergoing steady growth.[8]

Present church building[edit]

The land for the current site, located adjacent to the main trolley line westbound from Hartford, was donated by longtime parishioners Dr. Thomas B. and John O. Enders. The firm of Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson was hired to design the new building with the assignment going to their New York Office headed by Mr. Goodhue. St. John's was the middle of three Episcopal churches designed by the New York Office in a relatively short period of time. The first was Christ Church in West Haven, Connecticut, and the last St. Mark's Episcopal Church (Mt. Kisco, New York) with each having a measure of similarity in the look of their exteriors and interiors.[9] St. John's West Hartford held its first service in the new building on Easter Sunday, 1909.

As initially built, St. John's consisted of the church and a small office wing. Mr. Goodhue's plan for the site included a number of additional features which evolved during subsequent upgrades.[10] In 1914-5 a small parish house with an auditorium was added to the structure and in 1922-3 a reredos and high altar designed by Mr. Goodhue and executed by sculptor Lee Lawrie were made part of a significant improvement to St. John's interior. A major facilities upgrade occurred in 1927 with the addition of two bays to the church to alleviate overcrowding, the construction of a large parish house with an adjacent cloister garden, and the installation of an outdoor pulpit built into a Peace Cross. 1955 brought the addition of a chapel, with its own pipe organ, to hold the burgeoning church school.[10]


On the night of October 10, 1992, a fire caused by spontaneous combustion of oil-soaked rags left in a maintenance room[11] caused about $7 million of damage[12] to the church's interior and exterior including the complete destruction of the stained glass window over the reredos (which itself was lightly affected), the auditorium, the 1950 Austin Organ, and its antiphonal of 1978. Other smoke and fire damage occurred throughout the structure, including the roof over the chancel and parts of the parish house. Church leaders moved forward to restore Mr. Goodhue's original designs as much as possible and to rejuvenate the infrastructure of the 83-year-old building. It reopened with a new altar window and auditorium, along with a large number of replaced or refurbished windows[13] and furnishings, for services on April 16, 1995.[12] The new organ was dedicated in 1996.[10]

Notable people[edit]

Dr. John Franklin Enders (1897–1985), a member of an important St. John's family, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1954. He was Baptized at St. John's Episcopal in Hartford, and later became a confirmed member of the Episcopal Church at the parish's then new location in West Hartford. Following his death in 1985, St. John's arranged a graveside service at Fairview Cemetery in West Hartford, his birthplace.[14]

Among St. John's many notable clergy have been two assistants who later became Bishops: Walter Henry Gray of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut and Kirk Stevan Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona.

Prominent musicians affiliated with St. John's include organist and choirmaster Clarence E. Watters (at St. John's 1929–1932 and 1952–1976) who was one of Marcel Dupré's "first and most enduring disciples-exponents-friends", and with whom Watters studied in Paris.[15] "One of [the 20th] century’s greatest organ virtuosos", Watters counted Charles-Marie Widor and other prominent organist/composers in his circle of friends and close associates.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d Burr, Nelson R. (1941). A History of St. John's Church, Hartford, Connecticut, 1841-1941. West Hartford, Connecticut.
  2. ^ Schuyler, Montgomery (January 1911). The Works of Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson. Architectural Record Company.
  3. ^ Wait, Gary E. A History of St. John's Church, 1841-1995. (West Hartford, Conn.: St. John's Church), 1996
  4. ^ Ochse, Orpha (2001). Austin Organs. Richmond, Virginia: Organ Historical Society.
  5. ^ Church Records, St. John's Episcopal Church, West Hartford, CT.
  6. ^ O'Gorman, James F. (2008). Henry Austin: In Every Variety of Architectural Style. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press.
  7. ^ "Colored Episcopalians: Meeting to Start a Church Held at St. John's Church". The Hartford Courant. July 11, 1904. p. 7.
  8. ^ "West Hartford: Large Increase in School Enumeration". The Hartford Courant. November 25, 1899. p. 13.
  9. ^ Baker, James McFarlan (1915). American Churches, Volume II: Illustrated. New York City: The American Architect.
  10. ^ a b c Wait, Gary E. (1996). A History of St. John's Church, 1841-1995. West Hartford, Connecticut.
  11. ^ Stansbury, Robin (April 27, 1996). "St. John's Reopening A Form Of Closure". Hartford Courant. Retrieved May 23, 2018.
  12. ^ a b Stansbury, Robin (April 17, 1995). "Hugs And Hallelujahs As A Church Reopens: Fire Strengthened West Hartford Congregation". Hartford Courant. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  13. ^ "Client Testimonials". Stained Glass Resources. February 27, 2006. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  14. ^ Church Records, St. John's Episcopal Church, West Hartford, CT.
  15. ^ Baglivi, Anthony. "Editor's Notes: Clarence Watters", American Organist, May, 1986, p.1
  16. ^ Terry, Mickey Thomas (1987). "Clarence Watters -- A Tribute". American Organist. pp. 16, 18.


  • Allen, N. H. (1896). "Old Time Music and Musicians". Connecticut Quarterly. II: 154–157.

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