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Windsor Locks

MEMORIAL HALL, Windsor Locks
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1 South Main Street
Windsor Locks, CT

Dedicated: June 10, 1891
Type: Richardsonian Romanesque granite building
Donor: Charles E. Chaffee
Architect: Frederick S. Newman
Builder: W. H. Bliss
Mason: Alexander Dallas
Fresco painter: Frank D. Cordes & Company
Height: Two stories

Historical Significance

MEMORIAL HALL, Windsor Locks, is significant historically because it was built to be quarters for the J.H. Converse Post, No. 67, Grand Army of the Republic, and has served over the years as a center for memorial activities for those who served in all wars.

J.H. Converse Post was organized in 1884. It was named after Major Joseph H. Converse, who was killed in action at Cold Harbor, Virginia, on June 4, 1864. The post purchased the land for its building in 1889 from Jabez H. Hayden at the favorable price of $3,500. Hayden wrote conditions into the deed in an early, effective example of a historic preservation restriction (WLR 8/219). The deed provided that the contemplated building was to be used as a Soldiers Memorial forever, or become the property of the Congregational Church located several doors to the north, of which Hayden was a deacon. Several times over the ensuing century his restriction has thwarted schemes for alternate uses, such as turning the building into the town hall, which would have entailed changes to the historic fabric, especially on the interior.

Charles E. Chaffee (1818-?), donor of the building, was 73 years old at the time of dedication. He was not a member of the G.A.R., and motivation for his act of generosity is unknown. Chaffee was born in Munson, Massachusetts, worked in his youth as a wool sorter at local textile mills, and became a wool buyer at Enfield and Thompsonville mills. In 1866 he journeyed to Nottingham, England, with a mill owner to buy full-fashioned knitting machinery for a new underwear mill in Windsor Locks. Chaffee eventually bought the mill, which employed 200.

Dedication of the new G.A.R. building on June 10, 1891, was a major townwide event. In the parade the line of march consisted of 24 units, including the First Company Governor's Footguard, 61 men, and Colt's Band from Hartford, 21 pieces.

After World War II, use of the building was opened up to all veterans' organizations, and monuments to those who served in later wars were erected in the front yard. SOLDIERS MEMORIAL HALL became the focus in the community for patriotic activity relating to all wars.

Architectural Significance

MEMORIAL HALL, Windsor Locks, is significant architecturally because it is a good example of the Richardsonian Romanesque style, and because it enjoys an excellent state of preservation and integrity. It is a rugged building of quarry-faced gray Munson granite displaying typical features of the style such as monumental proportions, over-scaled Syrian entrance arch, and corner tower. It is comparable to two nearby buildings designed earlier by H.H. Richardson (1838-1886) himself, Hampden County Courthouse, Springfield, Massachusetts (1871), and Cheney Block, Hartford (1876).

The simplicity of the interior layout of SOLDIERS MEMORIAL HALL helps the building to work well, with clearly organized plan for meeting halls for the G.A.R. groups. Its fine interior detailing includes ash woodwork, an elliptical stairway, and tower-room fireplaces.

Frederick S. Newman (1847-1906), the architect, was born in Bangor, Maine. He opened his Springfield, Massachusetts, office in 1882. Two of his other buildings share with MEMORIAL HALL its characteristic diaper work and rounded corner with tower or tourelle under conical roof. They are the Chicopee National Bank in Springfield (1899) and the Linden apartment house, Hartford (1891). While Newman's work is vigorous and well-proportioned, it does not have the sense of massive unity and completeness of which Richardson was the master.


Facing east, MEMORIAL HALL. Windsor Locks, is a two-story gable-roofed rectangular granite building with tower at north front corner and central entrance. It is dedicated to Windsor Locks men who lost their lives in the Civil War. A stone walk leads up to the 17'-wide entrance arch. Voussoirs of the arch are incised with the words MEMORIAL HALL. The recessed double door, glazed and paneled, is set between side lights of small prisms. The effect is gradually to diminish the width of the entrance from the first steps, which are wider than the arch, to the doors, which are narrower than the arch. Over the entrance a band of four windows in the second floor establishes a horizontal line below triple windows in the diapered gable end.

To the south of the entrance is a polished granite plaque with lettering as recorded below. To the north is the round corner tower with four 1-over-1 windows of curved glass at first and second floors. The conical slate roof rises to a sturdy finial. The three other elevations are punctured by 1-over-1 windows. Diaper work in the rear gable end rises to a chimney which serves as a finial.

The first-floor plan provides a central hall with stairway on the left, and meeting rooms in the rear. Originally, the hall was decorated with frescoes of crossed flags with foliate borders painted by Frank D. Cordes & Company of Holyoke, Massachusetts. A bronze plaque lists the names of Windsor Locks men who died in the Civil War. The tower room has a fireplace and curved bookcases. Behind the tower is a meeting room used by the Sons of Veterans, an organization affiliated with the G.A.R. This room still has the square pedestal stations used in G.A.R. ritual (see also MEMORIAL BUILDING, Rockville in Vernon). A similar meeting room on the south side of the building was used by the Woman's Relief Corps, another affiliate of the G.A.R.

The main G.A.R. hall, 45' x 50', is on the second floor. The space with 14'-high ceiling is intact. Originally, the walls were tinted and decorated with painted borders of G.A.R. badges.

The roof framing is visible in the attic. It consists of rafters, two purlins on each slope, collar beams, and diagonal braces. Steel rods from the collar beams help support the ceiling of the large G.A.R. hall. The conical tower roof is constructed of vertical flush boards supported on a tapered framework of rafters and horizontal braces.

Two brass cannon are in the front yard. Nearby are monuments which honor those who served in World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam Conflicts.


In voussoirs of entrance arch, incised caps:


Granite plaque south of entrance, incised caps, second line in segmental curve, gilded:

-18- -90-
(segmental)BUILT BY
NO. 67 G.A.R.

    continuing, u.c. & l.c., not gilded:

in memory of those who went from
Windsor Locks and lost their lives
in the service of Our Country
in the late CIVIL WAR


Baruch, p. 14.

J.H. Converse, Post No. 67, G.A.R. membership records, Record Group 113, Box 39, Connecticut State Library.

Dedication of Memorial Hall, Windsor Locks, Connecticut, Wednesday June 10, 1891, Record Group 113, Box 39, Connecticut State Library.

The Leading Citizens of Hampden County, Massachusetts (Boston: Biographical Review Publishing Company, 1895).

Windsor Locks Land Records, volume 5, page 555, 8/219, 42/219, 44/139.