When I took a picture of the old Congregational Church, at in Willington on Wednesday, it was having some wok done (no doubt in response to this proposal)! The Congregational Church in Willington was established around 1728.
As described in the Tolland County Press (published in Stafford Springs) of October 12, 1876, p. 3:
THE NEW CHURCH. —One cold dreary evening during the past winter, the members of the Congregational society met together in the study of the old church to talk over the subject of building a new house of worship. A few were opposed to the project, but most of the members were heartily in favor of the proposed enterprise. Thus the long-needed work of building a new church was in embryo, which is now completed, and on Tuesday last was dedicated to the worship of Almighty God. Before giving an account of the dedication we will devote a brief space to a description of the edifice. At a subsequent meeting held in the early spring, it was voted to build, and nearly $1,000 was pledged by the people toward the enterprise. April 12th ground was broken for the building, on land generously donated by Mr. Geo. E. Robbins, and April 29th the corner stone was laid with religious ceremonies.
On Saturday, June 17th, the body of the main building was raised, and soon after the conference room. From the very beginning the work has progressed finely, everything seeming to work in the favor of the church and society. The main building is 36×46, and the conference room is 22×26, both built in Gothic style. A handsome tower rises from the center of the front end of the church, to the height of 61 feet. Near the top of the tower are four dormer windows, from which one has a fine commanding view of a wide expanse of country. Above the mam entrance is a triple window, which, surrounded by a neat display of architectural work, adds much to the beauty of the tower, which is surmounted by a neat vane. The main entrance is from the south, leading through a vestibule 12 feet square, into the audience room. This is neatly finished with open timbered roof, beautifully jetted with fancy brackets and scroll work. Tbe windows, which are of flicked glass, are finished with architraves. The ceiling is tinted with blue, while the walls are of light drab. The pulpit elevation is at tbe opposite end, with the orchestra on tbe left, both highly finished in oak and black walnut. The elegant railing around the latter, together with the breast-work in front of the slips, add much to the architectural beauty of the room. There are 46 slips, with a seating capacity of 230. The church is furnished with a fine pulpit set, including a communion table, bible stand, etc., from Baldwin Bros, of Springfield. In the orchestra is a superb organ of the Esty manufacture, the gift of E. T. Fitch, of New Haven. On its south wall is a handsome clock, donated by H. L. Wade, secretary of the Waterbury Clock Manufacturing Co., while the highly ornamented chandeliers, containing six lamps, also six side lamps, was the gift of L. G. Merrick, Esq. of Bristol, Conn. On Tuesday, Oct. 10th, the new edifice was dedicated to the worship of Almighty God. The weather was everything desirable, in perfect harmony with the interesting occasion. The church was filled to its utmost.
The Congregational Church merged with the Willington Baptist Church in 1911 to form The Federated Church of Willington. The congregation then moved to the Baptist meeting house across the Green. From 1926 to 1974 the old Congregational Church was used as the Town Hall, so the former church is also known as the Willington Old Town Hall. The church’s bell, purchsed from the First Church in Stafford in 1876, was removed during World War II to allow airplane spotters to used the tower. Instead of being placed back in the tower, it was mounted on a pedestal outside the building.
The first Congregational church building, or meetinghouse, in Newington was built in 1716. By 1784 the congregation needed a new building, but the bitter debate over where to erect it lasted thirteen years. Some members forcefully supported relocating the church from the center of the parish to the southern part. These members owned extensive tracts of land there and wanted to increase the vale of their property. The church society finally agreed to build the church in 1797 in the center of Newington. Those on the losing side separated from the congregation to build their own church, an Episcopal church called Christ Church, on what is now Church Street. The church only lasted for thirteen years and the building was then torn down. Newington’s Church of Christ Congregational, on the other hand, prospered. A parish house was added in 1893 and and a new two-story brick parish house in 1949. The 1797 church was torn down in 1960 to make way for the current church building, designed by architect Francis Newell of the firm of Jeter and Cook and built by Wadhams and May Construction Company. The cornerstone was laid on October 23, 1960 and the building was dedicated on March 5, 1961. A new three-story addition was dedicated in 1997. For more information see Barbara Lukens, “Facilities Often Shared By Newington Church” (Hartford Courant, February 12, 1956); Jean Weatherbee, “Dedication Set Sunday For Church Buildings” (Hartford Courant, March 1, 1961) & “Tombstones Mark Site Of Newington ‘Battle'” (Hartford Courant, April 30, 1961).
The Congregational church in Northford in North Branford was established in 1750. The original meeting house stood just south of the present church building, which was built in 1846. Designed by Henry Austin of New Haven, the Portland brownstone church originally had a taller wood steeple that was destroyed in a disastrous fire in 1906. The fire also gutted the interior of the church, which had to be reworked. Other changes over the years included the rebuilding of the external walls on at least two occasions (1863 and 1873). Most recently, the church’s newer wooden tower, built after the fire in 1906, was removed in 2010. The wood had rotted to such an extent that the large bronze bell in the tower was unstable (engineers believed that the bell’s weight was the only thing keeping the wood tower from blowing off in a high wind!). The church plans to restore the wood tower and a fundraising campaign is underway to “Save The Bell Tower.”
The Second Congregational Church of Norwalk, later called the South Norwalk Congregational Church, was formed in 1836 by members of the First Congregational Church who wanted to build a new church in the village of Old Well, which later became the City of South Norwalk. Its first church building was completed that same year and was enlarged in 1856. Ground was broken for a new and larger church on May 31, 1888. The structure (the current address is 4 Dr Martin Luther King, Jr Drive) was completed and the first services were held on the last Sunday in December 1889. The formal dedication took place early in January 1890. By the early 1970s the church had a dwindling membership. It sold its building and merged with United Congregational Church in West Norwalk. The former South Norwalk Congregational Church is now Little Zion Church of Christ of the Apostolic Faith. The steeple was hit by lightning in September 2014 which started a fire that caused some damage to the roof.
The town of Ledyard was set off from Groton and incorporated in 1836. Previous to this the territory which it covers was for many years known as the Second or North Parish in Groton. The Ecclesiastical Society in this North Parish was organized in 1725, with six or seven members, and at once took measures to find, by actual measurement, the exact centre of the parish as the proper place for a meeting-house. That centre was found to be “in the north-east corner of Stephen Morgan’s goat pasture.” Upon the spot thus designated the erection of a meeting-house was begun in 1727. The present church edifice stands partly on the same ground, but a little further back from the highway. The Congregational Church was organized in 1729. The early history of the Church for about 80 years, is veiled in obscurity. During the last 39 of these 80 years the Church had no settled pastor, and at sometime in this period became extinct; and its records, if it ever had any, have been lost.
The situation was rectified beginning in 1808, when the church began raising funds to repair its meeting-house. In 1811 the Ecclesiastical Society again had a settled minister, Rev. Timothy Tuttle, who served as pastor for fifty-three years. It was during his pastorate that the old meeting-house was taken down and the current church building was constructed in 1843.
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.
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.