St. Lawrence O’Toole Church History
From 1859 until 1881, the first Catholics of the southwest section of Hartford belonged to St. Peter on Main Street. In the 1870s Catholic numbers had risen to about 400, a fact prompting Father Lawrence Walsh of St. Peter to acquire land at the corner of Wilson and Laurel (later Hillside Avenue) Streets for a church. The new chapel, named for Father Walsh’s patron saint, was dedicated on December 3, 1876, by Bishop Thomas Galberry. In 1881, jurisdiction over the mission chapel passed to the Cathedral of St. Joseph. In 1883, St. Lawrence mission was made a parish by Bishop Lawrence S. McMahon, who named Father John F. Lenahan first pastor. Father James J. Smith bought land in 1895 at the corner of Wilson Street and Hillside Avenue for a lyceum building to serve the young people. With encouragement from Bishop John J. Nilan, Father John A. Dooley purchased four lots on New Britain Avenue in February 1926. On April 29, 1928, a solidly built basement chapel was blessed by Bishop Nilan. Father John J. Kelley completed the superstructure of the church, which was dedicated on October 24, 1954, by Archbishop Henry J. O’Brien. When a fire destroyed the Cathedral of St. Joseph at the end of 1956, St. Lawrence O’Toole Church served as the pro-cathedral for the Archdiocese until the new cathedral was constructed.