Friday, February 01, 2008
For several years, the building to the east of the Palace Theater on East Main Street has been referred to as the "Rectory Building." I haven't really paid close attention to this name, but every time I heard it, I thought something didn't sound right. In the past week, I heard and seen it called the Rectory Building at least twice, most recently in today's newspaper, and I've finally realized why this naming bothers me: the building is not, and never has been, a rectory. In fact, calling it a rectory does a disservice to the building's rich history. A rectory is the home of the rector, or priest. The building on East Main Street, as far as I know, never served that function.
The building on East Main Street (as seen above in an illustration from Anderson's History of Waterbury, published 1896) is correctly referred to as St. Patrick's Hall. It was built on one of the first property lots to be owned by Waterbury's Roman Catholics, who purchased the site from entrepreneur Elizur Prichard in 1847. Waterbury's first Roman Catholic church (St. Patrick's Chapel--darn typos! the name was St. Peter's, not St. Patrick's--my thanks to Joseph P. Nolan for catching the mistake) stood on the lot from 1847 until 1866. The Chapel was replaced by Waterbury's first Immaculate Conception Church, built on the opposite side of the street (where UConn is today). The old St. Patrick's (St. Peter's!) chapel became a public school, until it was replaced in 1889 with St. Patrick's Hall.
St. Patrick's Hall, Waterbury's best and possibly only [Correction, 2/4/08--there is at least one other, on Bank Street, across from the parking garage] example of the Richardsonian Romanesque style, was built under the leadership of Rev. John A. Mulcahy, an Irish-born priest who came to Waterbury in 1886. The Hall contained the parish's Sunday School, as well as a library and reading room, meeting rooms for Catholic and social organizations, a gymnasium and a large hall for lectures and entertainment. It signaled the emergence of Roman Catholics as respected members of the community--forty years earlier, the parish had struggled to overcome anti-Catholic prejudices in Waterbury.
St. Patrick's Hall is both an architectural gem and an important monument to Waterbury's Catholic history, but it is not a Rectory.