Windsor Grange building at 1409 Poquonock Ave. WHS collections 1993.60.87, gift of William and Carrie Phelps Kendrick.
There was a time in the not-to-distant past when the local Grange Hall was the center of community life in many small towns. It was a place of social gathering, a political rallying point, an economic cooperative, a fraternal order, a service organization, and an agricultural forum. It instilled love of God, family, and country. It helped farmers band together to protect their mutual interests. And, more than any other institution, it embodied an American way of life.
The Order of Patrons of Husbandry, the national Grange movement, began in 1867 with a mission that combined nationwide support for farmers, including education and lobbying, and family-based social and community-service activities. The initiative was widely embraced and spread rapidly across the country. The first Grange in Windsor was organized in 1874. The twenty-four charter members included many of the prominent families in Windsor involved in agricultural pursuits. Records of this group are sparse, but it appears that they met regularly for several years and then dissolved about 1881.
The revitalized Windsor Grange #196 was chartered in 1929. They met at the Odd Fellows Hall at 19 Maple Avenue for monthly meetings and a variety of activities such as musical programs, debates, outings and picnics, and meetings with other area granges. Dances and card parties were particularly popular and were often open to the public. In 1940 the original 1874 charter was rediscovered, enabling the group to regain its proud designation as Windsor #2, the second-oldest local Grange in the state.
In 1949 the Town of Windsor closed four of the smaller schools in the Poquonock section of town and built a new elementary school. The Windsor Grange took this opportunity to obtain a permanent home for itself and bought the former Elm Grove School located at the intersection of Prospect Hill Road and Poquonock Avenue. Grange members did much of the extensive remodeling work on both the first and second floors, adding a new furnace, modern kitchen, lodge hall, and connecting the building to city water and sewers. The new Grange Hall was dedicated on December 10, 1949, at the same time the group celebrated its 20th anniversary.
Windsor Grange #2 benefited from its new home and enjoyed activities there for several decades. However, the gradual aging and loss of members eventually led the group to the point of a difficult decision: in 2003 the Grange Hall was put up for sale and was converted into a private residence. The Windsor Grange Hall Association, Inc. formally dissolved at the end of 2006.
Sometimes ideas for newsletter articles come from our readers – and we welcome them. This piece about the Windsor Grange was prompted by a call from Grange members concerned about a misidentified photo in our Images of America: Windsor book. The structure pictured at the top of the page served as the Elm Grove School for nearly 100 years and then as the home of the Windsor Grange. It is similar architecturally to the former Spiritualists Society Hall on West Street in Poquonock, shown in this photo.
By Barbara Goodwin, Librarian, 2009