Colonial-era congregational meetinghouses served as a place for both religious services and town meetings. They often resembled large houses and did not always have steeples. The Worthington Meetinghouse (723 Worthington Ridge in Berlin) was built in 1774 with no steeple. One was added in 1790, but the building has since been restored to its original look without a steeple. The congregational church in Worthington (the west side of Berlin) had split from the church in Kennsington (the east side of Berlin) in 1772. A fire damaged the building in 1848. Although it was soon repaired, church members decided to erect a new church (now the Berlin Congregational Church) down the road. No longer a house of worship, the building continued its public function as the Worthington Town Hall. The large open space insde was divided into two floors: upstairs for town meetings and downstairs for a school with two classrooms. In 1907 the entire building became a school with a total of four classrooms. The old Meetinghouse served as a school until 1957, when it became the offices of the Berlin Board of Education. The building became vacant in the 1970s when it was declared unsafe. The inside was gutted around that time, but work halted, leaving the interior unfinished. Local residents have been working to restore the building as a community cultural center and museum.
East Hartford’s Town Hall, 740 Main Street, was completed in 1937 and an addition to the Georgian Revival building was constructed in 1950. Wells Hall, built in 1832 at 110 Main Street, had previously served as Town Hall, from 1885 to 1936.
The building that today serves as the Town Hall of Montville was built in 1917-1918 as the Uncasville School. Located at 310 Norwich-New London Turnpike, it was designed by Wilson Potter, a New York City-based architect of schools throughout the Northeast. A substantial addition (1925), probably also designed by Potter, consists of the two projecting wings that flank the recessed central block that was the original building. Another one-story addition was made in 1953. The school was the gift of Grace Palmer Melcer, a civic leader and daughter of Edward A. Palmer, a local industrialist. It was built at her own expense as a memorial to her mother, Isabel Mitchell Palmer, who died in 1916. With a substantial number of immigrants from Eastern Europe and elsewhere settling in Montville at the time to work in the the area’s mills, the school had a curriculum that emphasized acculturation and integration. The school, now used as the Town Hall, is located next to a 1938-1939 building that had previously been the Montville Town Hall.
The building at 42 Main Street in North Stonington was built just before 1809 by Daniel Packer and Jedidiah Randall. It served as a store and for a time as a jail. It was moved from another spot on the same lot in the late nineteenth century. The building was the T.S. & H.D. Wheeler Store (a general store) before it was converted into North Stonington‘s Town Hall in 1904. A neighboring garage was converted into a new Town Hall in 1978. Today the old Town Hall is used for the offices of the selectmen, resident state trooper, and other town officials.
In 1886 the Fairfield County Bar Association and county representatives decided that the time had come to build a new county courthouse in Bridgeport. The city’s first courthouse (now called McLevy Hall), built in 1854, had become inadequate and its location near the public square meant that noise from the street, including from streetcars, had become a a nuisance when court was in session. As had occurred before in the 1850s, when the county seat was moved from the town of Fairfield to Bridgeport, the city of Norwalk made its own bid to build the new courthouse, but Bridgeport leaders, including Sidney B. Beardsley and P.T. Barnum, appropriated more funds and won legislative approval. The cornerstone for the building, located near the northwest corner of Golden Hill and Main Streets, was laid on June 24, 1887. Completed in 1888, the Courthouse is a Richardsonian Romanesque structure designed by Warren R. Briggs. There is also a Fairfield County Courthouse in Danbury.
Opened at 300 Main Street in Old Saybrook in 2009 is The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, named for the famous actress who lived in town. Before the building was restored to become a new cultural arts center, it had served from 1911 until 2004 as Old Saybrook’s Town Hall. Designed by New London architect James Sweeney, it was constructed in 1910-1911 to be the Old Saybrook Town Hall and Theater, with town offices in the raised basement and a theater above that was used both for performances and community gatherings. A driving force behind the building‘s construction was Joseph A. Cone, a printer, performer and musician, and the Old Saybrook Musical and Dramatic Club, which he had founded. Unfortunately, by the 1950s the old theater space had been subdivided for more town offices. Today it again serves its original purpose as a performance space.
The house at 895 Saybrook Road in Haddam was built by the brothers Nehemiah and John Brainerd to serve as a social hall called Brainerd Hall. The brothers owned a granite quarry that they opened in 1792. Brainerd Hall was constructed soon after the brothers’ uncle Hezekiah Brainerd and his wife Elizabeth acquired the land from Elizabeth’s father, John Wells, in 1794. After John Brainerd’s death in 1841, the hall housed students at the nearby Brainerd Academy, a school established by the Brainerd brothers.. After 1857, Erastus G. Dickinson operated the Golden Bull Tavern in the building. It remained in the Dickinson family until 1964.