First Congregational Church, Madison (1838)

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 Posted in Churches, Federal Style, Madison | No Comments »

First Congregational Church, Madison

The first meetinghouse in Madison was erected in 1705, on the southeast section of the town green. It had neither a bell nor a steeple and galleries were only added in 1715. A new meetinghouse was dedicated in May 1743, to which a steeple was added in 1799. The present First Congregational Church was built in the Federal style on the north part of the green in 1837-1838. As described in A Modern History of New Haven and Eastern New Haven County, Volume 1 (1918), by Everett G. Hill:

When the people built for the third time in 1838, they had the common struggle to break away from the green. There was a strong party that favored building on Deacon Hart’s lot north of the green, but so resolute was the minority that forty-seven members actually withdrew from the church in 1841, because of the change. The commanding site north of the green was chosen, and it and the building placed thereon have ever since been the pride of the people of Madison, the delight of all who visit the town. It is a building of notable architecture, acknowledged by all good judges to be one of the finest country churches of its type in New England. A handsome modern chapel was added to its equipment, on a plot just east of the green, in 1881.

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Bethlehem Lutheran Church, East Hampton (1856)

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 Posted in Churches, East Hampton, Greek Revival | Comments Off

Bethlehem Lutheran Church

The church at 1 East High Street in East Hampton was built in 1855-1856 by residents on the north side of town who wanted to separate from the East Hampton Congregational Church. As described in the History of Middlesex County (1884):

The members of the ecclesiastical society, living in the vicinity of the lake, becoming dissatisfied with the location of the meeting house, in 1855 erected an edifice of stucco work, 56 feet in length. 35 feet in width. with a spire 120 feet in height, about three-fourths of a mile north of the old meeting house. It was finished in the summer of 1856, and in September of that year 25 persons who had been dismissed from the First Church for the purpose of organizing a new church, called a council of pastors and delegates from the neighboring churches. They were constituted a Christian church under the name and title of the Union Congregational Church of East Hampton.

The new church flourished during the religious revival of the 1860s, but attendance later declined and the church closed its doors in 1880. In the 1880s, the building was used by various town groups for meetings and entertainments. Around 1890, Swedish immigrants, who had been working at the Portland brownstone quarries, began settling in East Hampton. In 1898 they purchased the former Union Congregational Church, which was rededicated as the Bethlehem Lutheran Church. The church is mentioned in an article entitled “The Town of Chatham,” (Chatham was renamed East Hampton in 1915) that appeared in The Connecticut Magazine, Vol. V, No. 6, June, 1899:

The Lutherans of Swedish descent having become quite numerous in this place have for some time held services in private houses. The service is conducted by Rev. L. P. Ahlquist of Portland, one of the foremost of the Swedish Lutheran ministers in the United States. The Lutheran communicants of East Hampton have recently purchased the edifice which was once used by the Union Congregational Church, at the corner of Main and High Streets, renovated it, and dedicated it as the place of their worship, Sunday, May 14, 1899, with impressive services. These recent comers from the northern part of Europe are like the last preceding mentioned [Irish Catholics], giving the native-born citizens good examples in the neat appearance of their church and its surroundings.

The Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church‘s appearance has been altered over the years. The rear parish hall was built in 1957. The church’s exterior fieldstone walls were refinished in 1978 to resemble sandstone blocks. The original steeple was removed in 1888 and replaced. The current steeple was erected within the last 30 years.

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Third Congregational Church, Guilford (1844)

Sunday, February 15th, 2015 Posted in Churches, Greek Revival, Guilford | Comments Off

Third Congregational Church

In 1843, 123 members of the First Congregational Church of Guilford who were strongly anti-slavery decided to form their own church, the Abolition Church, later renamed the Third Congregational Church of Guilford. These members had been refused permission by First Church to hold meetings of the local Anti-Slavery Society. They were also supporters of Rev. Aaron Dutton, First Church’s minister from 1806 to 1842, who had resigned due to dissensions within the congregation over his abolitionist stance. As related in The History of Guilford, Connecticut (1877), by Ralph D. Smith:

The present house of worship was built in 1844, and dedicated to the service of God, January 1, 1845. It was remodeled in 1862, and supplied with a suitable organ in 1873.

A chapel at the rear was added in 1879. By 1919 church membership had dwindled. The congregation of Third Church rejoined First Church and sold the building (49 Park Street) to Christ Church for use as a parish house. The building‘s steeple was removed in the 1920s because it had begun to lean. For several years, the former church was used as a movie theater, a kindergarten and a dancing school. In 1933 the building was sold again and renamed the Chapel Playhouse. It was converted for use by a summer stock theater group, the New York-Guilford players, and for the Guilford Town Players. The Christian Science Society bought the building in 1951 and restored it, changing their name in 1955 to the First Church of Christ, Scientist.

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First Church of Christ, Congregational, Suffield (1869)

Sunday, February 1st, 2015 Posted in Churches, Romanesque Revival, Suffield | Comments Off

First Church of Christ, Congregational, Suffield

Suffield’s first meeting house was erected around 1680. The Congregational Society was formally organized in 1698. A new Congregational meeting house was built around 1700. The next two church edifices are described in the Celebration of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Settlement of Suffield, Connecticut, October 12, 13 and 14, 1920 (1921):

The sills for a new Meeting House were laid May 8, 1749 and the steeple raised on August 22 following. The edifice was forty feet wide and fifty-seven long and stood north to south parallel with the burying ground. The steeple stood at the north end. . . . The fourth church edifice, the one for the past fifty years serving as the freight house at the railroad station, was built in 1835.

The current church was built in 1869. It was designed in the Romanesque Revival style by John C. Mead, a Suffield native who designed numerous churches throughout Connecticut. The First Church of Christ, Congregational originally had a tall spire on its southeast corner that blew down in the Hurricane of 1938 and was never replaced.

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New Hope Bible Way Church (1799)

Sunday, January 25th, 2015 Posted in Churches, Federal Style, Middletown | Comments Off

New Hope Bible Way Church

At 712 Main Street in Middletown is the New Hope Bible Way Church. The building, which originally stood on the west side of Main Street between College and Court Streets, was built in 1799. It was then the fourth meetinghouse of Middletown’s First Church of Christ, a Congregational society first organized in 1668. The structure has been moved twice. The first time was in 1822, when it was shifted back 8 feet as it was thought to be too close to Main Street. In 1873, after the congregation moved to a new building (the current First Church of Christ on Court Street), the old meetinghouse had its steeple removed and the structure was relocated to its present location. The original rear of the church became the new front facade facing Main Street, to which storefronts were eventually added. For a time, the former church’s audience room was used for meetings of St. Mary’s Total Abstinence and Benevolent Society. Before becoming a church again, the building housed small businesses and apartments.

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Windham Center Church (1887)

Sunday, January 18th, 2015 Posted in Churches, Gothic, Windham | Comments Off

Windham Center Church

The First Congregational Church of Windham was formally organized in 1700, having met informally since 1692. The church’s first meeting house, built c. 1697-1700, was replaced by a larger one (or else the original one was enlarged) c. 1713-1716. A new building was constructed in 1751-1755 and pulled down in 1848 to build another. The current church was built in 1887. It is now known as the Windham Center Church and is not a member of any denomination.

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Greenfield Hill Congregational Church (1855)

Sunday, January 11th, 2015 Posted in Churches, Fairfield, Federal Style | Comments Off

Greenfield Hill Congregational Church (1855)

The Greenfield Hill section of Fairfield began as a farming community in the early eighteenth century. Local residents successfully petitioned the General Assembly to establish a Congregational church in 1725 as a new Northwest Parish, separate from the Fairfield Congregational Church. The first meeting house was erected in 1727. As related in Ye Church and Parish of Greenfield (1913) by George H. Merwin:

The new meeting-house which was so acceptably framed during the summer of 1727, was not completed at once. The members of the parish were evidently not inclined to tax themselves too heavily during any one year, for we must remember that all parish expenses were met by a tax rate levied at the annual parish meeting precisely the same as we now levy the annual town tax. So each year, for five years or more, the parish voted to raise a rate for Mr. Goodsell’s salary, and for the carrying on of the work on the meeting-house. We have conclusive evidence that the new meeting-house was in use at least as early as 1730 for the records of the meeting held October 13 of that year state that “ye school shall be kept in ye old school-house where ye parish used to meet in.”

A new meeting house was built in 1762. Quoting again from Merwin:

Mr. Pomeroy had been pastor but a short time when the society decided to build a new meeting-house. The old meeting-house had been in use scarcely thirty-three years, yet it was becoming dilapidated, and out of date. Its shape was like that of the common country school-house, perfectly plain; there was no steeple and no place for a bell. A young and active preacher and a parish of loyal and prosperous people demanded a more up-to-date house of worship.

So on February 4, 1760, it was voted “that a new meeting-house be built; that it shall stand on the Place of Parade, where now stands a monument of stones, and that Samuel Bradley Jr. shall be a committee to apply to the county court in behalf of the parish, to affix and establish the place on which it shall stand.” A few weeks later it was decided that “the dimensions of the building shall be 60 by 42 feet, with a well-proportioned and well-built steeple; that Samuel Bradley Jr. and Moses Dimon Esq. shall be the committee for building said new meeting-house.”

As related by Merwin, the next meeting house was built in 1845:

Soon after Mr. Sturges’ settlement, the subject of building a new house of worship was agitated. It seemed unwise to expend more in the repair of the old meeting-house, which had been in use for more than eighty years. The hardest problem to solve was not the raising of funds, but how to get the consent of the pew-owners, who held their pews by deeds derived from their fathers. But after much labor on the part of the pastor, Governor Tomlinson, and others, the necessary vote was secured to pull down the old and build a new meeting-house.

[…] The plans and specifications had been furnished by the noted New York architect, Richard Upjohn, the designer of Trinity Church, New York, and many other churches and public buildings. The style of the church was what was commonly known in architecture as “Gothic,” and considered by everyone as very beautiful. During the few years it remained standing it was known as the handsomest church in this section.

The building only stood a few years, until:

On November 2, 1850, the Ladies’ Sewing Society asked permission to place a furnace under the church at their own expense; their request was readily granted, but the furnace, perhaps through improper management, proved to be a poor investment and most disastrous in destroying property, for three years later, after having been in use but little more than five years, between Sunday evening, November 13, and the morning of November 14, 1853, this most beautiful and much-admired house of worship was entirely consumed by fire. The loss was a great disappointment to those who had built the church at much expense, toil and sacrifice, and we do not wonder that they felt somewhat discouraged.

The Gothic church was soon replaced by a new one:

It was voted that this church should have a basement under at least two-thirds of it, and Thomas Merwin and William Sherwood took the contract for the excavation. Albert C. Nash furnished the plans, for which he was paid $100. The mason work of the underpinning was performed by John Conrad, the contractor for the carpenter work was David Smith of Black Rock (brother of Franklin Smith of Greenfield), the contract price being $5,500. The interior decorating of walls, considered at the time a work of art, was done by Oris Fritz of New York, for $250. A new bell was purchased at a cost of $276.80, and put in place October 4, 1854, but the building was not entirely completed and accepted by the society until February, 1855[.]

The current Greenfield Hill Congregational Church was dedicated on April 10, 1855.

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