St. Bernard's Church

7 Maple Street • Simsbury, CT • Hartford County

Historical Significance

The church is located in the Tariffville Historic District, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. Saint Bernard's parish was organized and built its first church, c.1850, to serve Irish immigrants who came to Tariffville as laborers. The first Mass in Tariffville was celebrated in 1846 by Father John Brady. Priests from Hartford, such as Fathers Brady and Peter Walsh, served Tariffville until Father Luke Daly of New Britain assumed this duty in September 1848. In 1850, Father Daly undertook the building of a church near Mountain Street. On December 10, 1856, the Tariffville chapel became a mission of St. Patrick, Collinsville. In 1876 the church was destroyed by fire.

Photo: View east of fa├žade. (Tod Bryant)

The Mountain Street property was sold in 1878 because a larger church had been erected on the Winthrop Street site of the present- day parish cemetery, a land parcel purchased in 1865. The church was dedicated to St. Bernard on November 23, 1879. On May 1, 1881, St. Bernard was made a parish with Father John Quinn appointed first pastor. In 1892, a disastrous fire struck St. Bernard and destroyed the Winthrop Street church.

Land was purchased on Maple Street where Bishop Lawrence S. McMahon blessed the cornerstone of a new church on September 25, 1892. It was later dedicated in 1895. The current church building was the culmination of a period of prosperity and growth for the parish. Since 1895, the change in the ethnic make up of the parish is reflected by the lettering on monuments in Saint Barnard's Cemetery, which includes Polish, Italian, and Lithuanian names.

The church's frame Gothic Revival style was not uncommon among contemporary Catholic churches in Connecticut. The funds to create its stained glass windows were donated by members of the parish, all of whom or their ancestors came from six counties of Ireland: Longford, Tyrone, Tipperary, Roscommon, Galway, and Wexford. Most of them were farmers; two were priests, three worked for the railroad and one was a cigar maker.

Sources

Ransom, David, F. "Tariffville Historic District," National Register of Historic Places nomination. 1993.

Thomas F. Howard, "The Gift Givers of St. Bernard's Catholic Church: Nineteenth-Century Memorials in Stained Glass," Genealogical and Historical Research Library, vol. 12, issue 2-3, summer-fall 2005

Notable Features of Building or Site

Saint Bernard's Church faces northeast toward Maple Street. It is an interpretation of the Gothic Revival style with a pitched roof over the nave, clerestories on the sides, and shed roofs over the aisles. It has a tower on the northeast corner, with an eight-sided spire and projecting peaked dormers. Tourelles embellish the corners of the tower and the rest of the structure.

There is a rose window in the gable end facing the street over a row of four rectangular stained- glass windows. The two-story apse at the east end of the building is six-sided. Stained-glass windows on the side elevations have trefoil-shaped tops. The church complex includes a rectory next door on Maple Street and a cemetery diagonally across Winthrop Street.

Interrelationship of Building and Surroundings

The church is located in a residential neighborhood. The large cemetery is southwest across Winthrop Street.


Additional Information

Date(s):  Built 1892-1895
Style(s):  Gothic revival
Historic Use:  church
Present Use:  church


Accessibility:
Exterior visible from public road.
Interior accessible (during services).


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