Russell LibraryWithin these brownstone walls, choirs sang hymns, teenagers learned astronomy, and - eventually - Middletown residents of all ages borrowed books.
Although this building has housed the Russell Library for well over a century, it had an earlier existence as an Episcopal Church. Christ Church, established in Middletown in 1750, built this structure in 1833.
In 1840 the church's basement was the site of the Middletown City High School, the first permanent high school in Connecticut. Previously, the city's public or "common" schools, usually conducted in chilly one-room schoolhouses, offered only the most basic lessons from young teachers of limited education.
At the new high school boys and girls between ages nine and sixteen learned reading, grammar, spelling, writing, arithmetic, geography, and astronomy. (Boys also learned algebra, bookkeeping, Latin, and Greek - subjects unavailable to female students, for whom they were probably judged too complicated or irrelevant.) A year later, Middletown City High School moved to a new building on College Street.
Christ Church later changed its name to the Church of the Holy Trinity, and in 1870 built a new church on Main Street. In 1873 the congregation sold this, their old building, to Frances Russell, the wealthy widow of importer and manufacturer Samuel Russell. Mrs. Russell made extensive renovations to the church building, and then presented it to the City of Middletown as a pubic library in honor of her late husband. Although Middletown had boasted several private lending libraries since the 1700s, Russell Library was the city's first true public library, open to all citizens without cost.
Since its incorporation in 1875, Russell Library has become a jewel in Middletown's crown, offering everything from concerts to children's stories, from travel programs to computer classes, from reference help to foreign films and, of course, thousands and thousands of books.
Take Two of These ?
Residents nicknamed Broad Street "Pill Alley" since many physicians lived and worked here. Among them was Dr. Kate Campbell Hurd Mead, who had her medical office at 99 Broad Street in the 1890s. Dr. Mead was one of just a few female physicians in the city at that time.
Middletown's high school soon outgrew Christ Church where its first classes took place in 1840. The city first built a new school on College Street; then in 1895 constructed a grand Romanesque building on Court Street. The new Middletown High School had modern plumbing, central heat, an auditorium, and science laboratories. It closed in 1972 and later became housing for senior citizens.
Broad Street Boys
Broad Street at the turn of the 20th century was lined with shade trees and hitching posts which boys delighted in "leapfrogging" Among the neighborhood boys at that time was young Dean Acheson, who went on to become Secretary of State under President Truman. Acheson reminisced about his childhood in his memoir, Morning and Noon. The Achesons lived in the elegant brick house at 144 Broad Street, then the rectory of the Church of the Holy Trinity, and now St. Luke's Home.
Middletown Heritage Trail
Welcome to the Middletown Heritage Trail! You'll find Heritage Trail "stations" like this one throughout the downtown area. Each gives a brief glimpse into the city's past, recounting stories about interesting people, places, and events in Middletown's history.
You can follow the Heritage Trail as a whole, or just visit individual stations. An overview of the Trail is located beside Police Headquarters at 222 Main Street. Heritage Trail brochures are available at the Middletown Police Headquarters, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce (393 Main Street), the Russell Library (123 Broad Street), and the Middlesex County Historical Society (151 Main Street).