St. Francis of Assisi Parish was established in 1903 to serve the South Farms section of Middletown, as well as the towns of Durham and Middlefield. The parish’s first pastor, Rev. Patrick McGivney, was the brother of Fr. Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus. The parish’s new church (10 Elm Street in Middletown), built at a cost of $27,000, was dedicated on November 4, 1904.
The first Baptist church in Connecticut was established in Groton in 1705. Families west of the Thames River, who did not want to have to travel across the river every Sunday, established their own Baptist church, only the second in Connecticut, in 1710 in what would later be the Town of Waterford. Meeting in private homes and, for a time, sharing a meeting house with the Waterford Seventh Day Baptists, they eventually built a church on Mullen Hill Road around 1796. It was here that the first meeting of the Town of Waterford was held in 1801. The town continued to meet at the church for a century until a town hall was built. The current Greek Revival meeting house of the First Baptist Church of Waterford was constructed in 1848 at 105 Rope Ferry Road. Construction of the church stimulated the development of its immediate vicinity as a residential community, an area known as Jordan Village.
The Borough of Fenwick (pdf) in Old Saybrook has long had its own nondenominational house of worship, St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea. Religious services for the Fenwick summer community were initially led by Rev. Francis Goodwin in his own home. A leader of both Hartford and Fenwick society and an amateur architect, Rev. Francis Goodwin (1839-1923) championed the development of more parks in Hartford as the city’s first commissioner of parks. In 1883, Rev. Goodwin designed and built a small chapel on his property for Sunday worship. By 1886, the chapel was too small to accommodate the number of worshipers, so it was moved to its current location (30 Agawam Avenue) and enlarged with additional pews and a bell tower. St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea is a Shingle style structure, as are so many of the Fenwick summer cottages. You can read more about St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea in Marion Hepburn Grant’s The Fenwick Story (Connecticut Historical Society, 1974), pages 37-49.
The first Methodist sermon in Watertown was preached in 1794 and the town’s first Methodist Class was formed in 1800. As described in the History of Ancient Westbury and Present Watertown from its Settlement to 1907 (1907):
On February 21, 1853, a meeting was held in the office of Dr. Catlin to discuss the feasibility of establishing Methodist worship at Watertown Centre, and it was voted desirable to have preaching here the following conference year. Much difficulty was experienced in securing a suitable place for these meetings, and the committee accepted the invitation of General Merritt Heminway to use the ball-room in his hotel during the summer. Rev. Larmon Abbot preached the first sermon here May 29, 1853. There being no facilities for heating the ball-room, during the winter the Congregational chapel was rented for the use of the Society. In October, 1854, the basement of the new Church was ready for use, and the edifice was dedicated December 13, 1854.
. . . In 1897, the membership of the Church having greatly increased, it became necessary to build a larger edifice. $9,500 was subscribed, largely through the influence and generosity of Augustus N. Woolson. He also purchased the old Church for $1,000 and removed it. A call for more money for carpets, organ, etc., was met by the same generous giver. And not only in his Church was Mr. Woolson’s influence felt. He represented the town in Legislature, and was sent by the unanimous vote of his townsmen as delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Many homes in the town were made happier by his benevolence. It has been said that for a quarter of a century before his death there was no movement looking toward the improvement of Watertown in which he had not a prominent, if not a leading part. He was an honest and successful business man, a model citizen, a philanthropist and a sincere Christian.
Completed in 1898, the church (305 Main Street) was designed by George W. Kramer, whose book The What, How and Why of Church Building was published in 1897. Kramer also designed the Methodist Church in Derby, the Asbury United Methodist Church in Bristol (1900) and St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Hartford (1900).
An Episcopal parish was formed in Woodbury in 1740. As related in the first volume of the History of Ancient Woodbury (1854), by William Cothren: “The old town house on the ground now occupied by the carriage house of N. B. Smith, Esq., was, after the erection of the new Congregational house in 1747, occupied by the Episcopalians for stated worship until the erection of the present church edifice in 1785.” Woodbury is known as “The Birthplace of the Episcopacy in America,” because it was here, in the Glebe House (the minister’s residence, home of Rev. John Rutgers Marshall) that Samuel Seabury was elected the first Bishop of Connecticut, the first Episcopal Bishop in America. In 1785, work began on the parish‘s own church building. The exterior of the edifice was completed in 1786, but funds had been exhausted. The Glebe House was sold and the proceeds used to finish the interior of the church. The first service in St. Paul’s Church was held in November of 1787. A new steeple was added in 1812 and the church was painted inside and out. The completed St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was consecrated by Bishop Thomas Church Brownell in 1822.
Baptists in New London first organized a church in 1710 and constructed a meetinghouse on Niles Hill, called the “pepperbox” because of its unusual hip-roofed shape. This church broke up in 1771, but a Baptist church was reformed in 1792, formally organizing in 1804 as the First Baptist Church. Local resistance thwarted their attempts to buy land for a new meeting house and the Baptists had to resort to subterfuge to acquire land at the corner of Union and Pearl Streets. As related in Frances Manwaring Caulkins’ History of New London (1856):
The church which now bears the designation of the First Baptist Church of New London, was constituted in February, 1804, by a colony of about fifty members from the Waterford Baptist church, most of whom resided within the limits of New London. [ . . .] The position chosen for their house of worship, was a platform of rock, on a summit of the ledge that runs through the central part of the city. It was commenced in 1805, and was occupied nearly ten years in an unfinished state; the beams and rafters left naked, and with loose, rough planks for seats. The interior was then finished, and the whole edifice has since been enlarged and improved. [. . .] In 1847, under the ministry of Rev. Jabez S. Swan, the members of this church amounted to six hundred and twenty-five, probably the largest church ever known in New London county. It has since colonized and formed another church. The number of members reported in 1850, is four hundred and five.
This rapid growth of the First Baptist Church led to the need for a new church, which was built at the corner of State and Washington Streets in 1856. The Romanesque Revival edifice was designed by W.T. Hallett, who also designed such other New London buildings as the City Hall (original facade) and Lawrence Hall (since demolished), both also built in 1856. The interior was not completed until the 1880s and the church’s stained glass windows were dedicated in 1892. The window on the State Street side was added in 1931.
At 22 Lyme Street in Old Lyme is a former church building that is now a private home, with the old choir loft converted into children’s bedrooms and a half bathroom where the confessional had once stood. The church was built in 1843 for Old Lyme’s Baptist community, which had previously gathered intermittently at various locations, often private homes. The Baptist Society disbanded in 1923 due to declining membership. Episcopalians purchased the building three years later. In 1934, the church was leased by the Roman Catholic Diocese, which dedicated it as Christ the King Church in 1937. The Parish now has a new church building, completed in 2005, at 1 McCurdy Road in Old Lyme.