The Church of the Good Shepherd

A Gothic Revival Church with a spire on a cloudy day with a green lawn and bare trees.
The Church of the Good Shepherd stands as a memorial to the love Elizabeth had for her family

Photo Credit: Nick Caito

Quick Facts
Hartford, Connecticut
Industrialist, Samuel Colt, and his successors pioneered the development of the revolver which had cultural, historical, and geographic impacts on the City of Hartford. Samuel was a paternalistic employer and the Church of the Good Shepherd was an integral part of his industrial village, even though it was commissioned after his death by his wife, Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt. The church is a pristine example of Gothic Revival architecture built by renown architect Edward Tuckerman Potter. It serves as a testament to the love Elizabeth for her husband and their three children who passed in infancy.
The Church of the Good Shepherd is a contributing building to the Coltsville Historic District which is registered as a National Historic Landmark District.

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The Church of the Good Shepherd was commissioned by Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt in memory of her husband, Samuel Colt, and their three children who passed away in early childhood.

The Church was designed by prominent architect Edward Tuckerman Potter, who designed Hartford’s renowned Mark Twain House and the Caldwell Hart Colt Memorial Parish House. The Church was built in the Gothic Revival style architecture and contains a center for worship and a room for the education of children in the faith. 

The Armorer’s Entrance of the Church is unique as the stonework surrounding the archway incorporates different parts of the Colt Revolver into its construction. Parts such as revolver cylinders, triggers, hammers, and pistol handles are all hidden around this entrance. These embellishments would have been clearly recognizable to armory employees, but they were included in a manner that maintained the sanctity of the church. 

The interior of the Church strongly emphasizes Elizabeth’s love of her family. Multiple stained-glass windows, throughout the church, are designed for and dedicated to Elizabeth’s departed loved ones. The dedication windows, at the back of the Church, contain biblical symbolism as well as the Colt family crest and motto at the bottom, ensuring that visitors to the church understand exactly why, and for whom, it was built. The ceiling of the Church is painted blue and has gold star embellishments which was common for Episcopalian Churches at the time, but it echoes the Blue Dome that sits atop the East Armory. 

Another striking feature inside the church is the baptismal font. This sculpture is dedicated to the three Colt children who passed away. The font was commissioned for the Church by Elizabeth’s sister, Hetty, and depicts the cherub-like children on a pedestal. They are supporting a large shell basin in their arms for baptisms. 

From its very conception, the Church of the Good Shepherd was meant to represent remembrance and connection in multiple aspects. It is filled with memorials to loved ones who passed and connections to the Colt Factory which was dear to Elizabeth and Samuel. 

In 1975, the Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places and in 2008 it became a contributing building of the Coltsville Historic District, which is a National Historic Landmark District. In 2014, the United States Congress authorized creation of Coltsville National Historical Park which includes the Church of the Good Shepherd. Today, the Church is a functioning place of worship open to the public and offers accessible English and Spanish services.  

Please note, that while the grounds are open to the public, the buildings are not. Tours can be requested by contacting the Church of the Good Shepherd. You can explore the interior of the Church of the Good Shepherd by checking out a 3D Virtual Tour of the location.  

Coltsville National Historical Park

Last updated: April 9, 2021