The Church of the
Past and Present:
The Church of the Good Shepherd is a diverse community
of faith and hope committed to worshipping and serving God in the midst of the city.
In our historic parish we seek through Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, to grow spiritually, to care for one another,
and to reach out to our neighbors.
In an ever changing neighborhood which has hosted
wave after wave of immigrants to this country, Good Shepherd has endeavored to maintain a constant witness to God’s
The church was built
in memorial to Colonel Samuel Colt and three of his children who died in infancy. The
consecration was January 28, 1869. Its architect was Edward Tuckerman Potter
of New York. The style was early English / Gothic with Portland freestone and
Of particular interest
inside are the floor tilings which grow richer in color as one moves toward the altar.
Surrounding the altar are stained-glass windows representing our Lord at the Last Supper, blessing the loaf of bread,
with six apostles on either side. Saint Paul replaces Judas, however. The figures
were taken from the work of Friederich Overbeck (1789 – 1869). The chestnut
beams and the hand-made windows (Heaton, Butler and Bayne of London, England) attract one’s attention.
The baptistery is in
the form of three children holding a shell. A gift from Mrs. Colt’s sister,
Mrs. C. Nichols Beach, carved from a single piece of white marble, it is in special memory of the three small children.
Because the chapel (on the north side of the church) was originally a church school meeting
room, it has a separate entrance at the exterior arch which reads, “Feed My Lambs” (John 21:15). The windows contain an image of the Child Jesus and
scripture texts deemed especially suitable for the young.
The special memorial
is located at the great west window. One figure is of Joseph (his face resembles
Sam’s) in Egypt, distributing food with the legend “And God blessed him and made all that he did to prosper”
(Genesis). The other figure is of the Good Shepherd with a flock, having this
legend, “He shall gather the lambs with his arm.” The multi-foiled
window above represents the Angel of Peace bearing three children in her arms. The
entire memorial is surrounded by a painted border containing this verse from Revelation, “The Lamb which is in the midst
of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters and God shall wipe away all tears from
This structure is markedly different from Hartford’s earlier churches designed to
be filled with light. The Victorians held that architecture should reflect life,
and that since life is full of so many shadows, a beautiful building should be full of shadow, as well. Yet there are many points at which the light breaks into the shadow: the windows symbolizing God’s
Light, and the bright brass of the eagle shaped lectern which holds the Bible, the Word of God.
Of particular interest in the exterior of the building is the southwest entrance, “the
armorer’s porch.” Potter believed in embellishing his edifices with
decorative details related to his patron’s life, and the exterior of this entrance is adorned with stone images of gun
barrels, pistol handles, and other details of the gun making craft which
decorate the crosses and other religious symbols.
Like so many of the great cathedrals of Europe, the church’s foundation is supported
by wooden pilings driven into the soil beneath. After two disastrous floods in
the mid-1930’s, dikes were constructed around the city to control the waters of the Connecticut River. As a result, the pilings began to dry and to rot, the foundation began to deteriorate, and the 150-foot
tower began noticeably to lean. The church was condemned for some years in the
early 1970’s, while the foundation was reinforced with concrete and steel.
History of the Colt Family
Colt born (July 19)
Hart Jarvis born (October 5)
at Armsmear (“Arms meadow”) established, Wethersfield Avenue, Hartford
Samuel Jarvis Colt (Feb. 1857-December 1857)
1858 Caldwell Hart Colt born (November 24)
Jarvis Colt (October 1860 – December 1860)
1861 Henrietta Selden Colt (May 1961 – December 1861)
1862 Samuel Colt died, aged 47,
Stillborn child (July 1862)
consecrated (January 28)
died in Florida (January 21)
house dedicated (September 10)
Hart Jarvis Colt died, aged 79 (August 23)
Armsmear willed as home for Connecticut Episcopal clergy widows
The Caldwell Colt Memorial
Commodore Caldwell Hart
Colt, Mrs. Colt’s only child to reach adulthood, drowned mysteriously in Florida at the age of 36 in 1894. Edward Tuckerman Potter (also architect of the Twain House in Hartford) was brought out of retirement to
build a “companion building,” 30 years after his work on the church. It
celebrates the world, creation, nature, and the sea. Caldwell was a yachtsman
who traveled the world on his ship, “The Dauntless.” This building,
with “WELCOME” inscribed over the front door, captures the image of a ship: with portholes, symbols of the sea,
and vocational themes. It expresses the grief of a mother whose love could not
be quenched by the waters that drowned her only adult son.
The tribune, located
in the ballroom on the south side, is raised a step above the floor of the hall and is separated by a bronze grille. It was
furnished with a full-length portrait (now hanging in Armsmear) of Commodore Colt standing on the deck of the Dauntless (painted
by Eastman Johnson). Around the portrait, the stone setting is carved in leaves
of bay (the laurel of the ancients), and on both sides are inscribed tablets of white Egyptian onyx. On either side of the tribune are carvings of the Dauntless: to
the left, as starting out on a voyage under full sail, while to the right, the yacht is shown with sails furled, the anchor
down, the voyage ended. But the light streaming over the water from the lighthouse
on shore symbolized the peaceful rest of the heavenly haven. The Colt seal, majestic
windows, scriptural text, and missive structures enhance the entire memorial.
Note the bell from the
Dauntless that hangs in the balcony. A ship’s watch runs across the ceiling,
like that of an ocean vessel.
from Mrs. Colt’s Letter of Dedication of the Parish House:
“May this [place]
be an incentive to all connected with it to do a far better, nobler and more self-sacrificing work in the Master’s service
than ever before. And may He without whom our labor is in vain have it in His
holy keeping, making it an increasing blessing to those for whose use it is intended, and to their children’s children,
that thus may be fulfilled the heartfelt prayer of their and your friend, Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt.” -September 10, 1896.