The third oldest surviving Episcopal Church building in Connecticut is the former St. Matthew’s Church in East Plymouth. The church was built by a group of members of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Plymouth who lived in the eastern part of town and were displeased in 1790 when the church decided to build a new meetinghouse in Plymouth Hollow, now Thomaston, which was then in the far western part of Plymouth. St. Matthew’s Church was built in 1792 with support from Episcopalians from the neighboring towns of Bristol, Harwinton and Burlington. The largest part of the original membership of St. Matthew’s came from the northwestern section of Bristol. Many Episcopalians had settled there near Chippens Hill and wanted a church nearby. St. Matthew’s Church is a vernacular building, in many ways similar to contemporary Congregational meetinghouses. A rural community grew up around the church, which is adjacent to the East Plymouth Cemetery. The history of the building can be found in the History of the Town of Plymouth, Connecticut (1895), compiled by Francis Atwater:
The church was built in 1792, but was unfinished inside, for at a meeting held March 5, 1793, Isaac W. Shelton and Stephen Graves were appointed a committee to “lay out the money, and procure somebody to do off the inside of the church.” And again, at a meeting held at the church December 31, 1793, the following committee was appointed to “examine and find the most convenient way of doing off the church and make report at the next meeting:” Noah Andrews, Ira Dodge, Isaac W. Shelton, Calvin Woodin, and Timothy Sperry; at which meeting held January 13, 1794, it was voted to “finish the church in the following manner: to make a broad alley through the center of the lower floor, and finish the sides with pews in the most convenient manner, also to finish the gallery by making two rows of seats round the whole square, and a row of pews across the south end.” It was voted that the church be called St. Matthew’s at a meeting held October 19, 1795. On November 10, 1794, it was voted to adopt the constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church of Connecticut, and Caleb Matthews, the parish clerk, was instructed to attend the convention at Cheshire and request the Right Rev. Dr. Seabury to consecrate the new church.
In 1795, “the church was consecrated by Bishop Samuel Jarvis, second Bishop of Connecticut.” Various changes were made to the building over the years, as again quoted from Atwater (in 1895):
When first erected the building stood in front of its present location with its entrance at the south end, but in 1842, or soon after, was turned around and placed where it now is. The old square pews were removed about 1830.
[. . .] In 1871 or ’72, the church was remodeled, a chancel arranged, the old towering pulpit taken down, and doors taken off the small pews, also a ceiling made to reach across from one gallery to another. There is no chimney, and when a stove was put in the people thought that no one could speak in such close atmosphere. It used to be a large and full congregation, but has dwindled down to half a dozen old decrepit ladies, and service is seldom performed there.
The former church is now a private residence.
The former St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Middlefield (was built in 1862 with support from the Church of the Holy Trinity in Middletown. There were never many Episcopalians in Middlefield and the church had closed by 1911. The neighboring Levi E. Coe Library acquired the Carpenter Gothic structure in 1920 and renamed it Library Hall. A modern addition now connects the two structures.
Trinity Episcopal Church in Southport was built in 1862. Eight years later the parish began to consider plans to build an adjacent chapel that would serve as a Sunday school. The Parish School opened on September 23, 1872 in the new Carpenter Gothic-style Chapel, which features board-and-batten siding. Originally a free-standing structure, the Chapel, which now serves as a parish hall, has been connected to the church complex through twentieth-century additions.
Published in 1881, the History of Fairfield County, Connecticut, compiled by D. Hamilton Hurd, describes the early history of the Westport Methodist Episcopal Church:
The construction of the present church was commenced in the year 1851. Rev. Z. Davenport, now living at Saugatuck, Conn., was at that time the preacher in charge. Services were held in the old Universalist church for about two years, and until the Methodist Episcopal Church was completed.
[. . .] The original members were mostly persons who had in former years belonged to the same denomination and had worshiped at a church about two miles north of Westport village, at Poplar Plains.
The first Methodist sermon preached within the limits of this town was at Poplar Plain, in 1790, by Jesse Lee, in a house standing a few rods west of the now old church. Some few years after this regular preaching services were held in a ballroom of a tavern near by, and until the meeting house was built, about the year 1817, slabs upon legs being used for about forty years before the room was regularly seated. The old church is still standing, and is occasionally used upon some funeral occasion, the members having mostly died, the others having joined with some other Methoilist society.
Construction of a new church, located at 45 Church Lane, was begun in 1907. The church was known by the 1950s as the Community Methodist Church. In 1966 the church was sold to the neighboring Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, which uses it as the Christ & Holy Trinity Church Seabury Center and Preschool.
Episcopal services in Fairfield were first held by visiting ministers starting in 1705. Trinity Parish was established in 1725 and its first church was built on Mill Plain in Fairfield. A new and larger church was built in 1737 in the center of Fairfield. During the Revolutionary War, the church was burned during the British raid on Fairfield in 1779. Trinity’s third church building was erected after the war on Mill Plain Road in 1790. In the early nineteenth century, the Borough of Southport in Fairfield was flourishing. The first Episcopal services in Southport were held in 1828 in the house at 95 Main Street. As attendance grew, services were held at the Old Academy. Eventually Trinity constructed its next building, affectionately called “The Old Church on the Hill,” in 1829 on Rose Hill Drive in Southport to serve the growing community. The first Southport church burned down in 1854, so it was replaced by a new church on Pequot Road in 1856. That same year, parishioners in the center of Fairfield, who felt that the Southport church was too far away, established St. Paul’s Parish. Trinity’s fifth building survived until it was destroyed in 1862 when a tornado caused the steeple to crash down through the roof. The current Trinity Episcopal Church was quickly built on the foundations of its predecessor and dedicated on December 11 of that same year.
St. John’s Episcopal Church in New Hartford is located on Church Street across from Pine Meadow Green (also known as Chapin Park). The Carpenter Gothic edifice was built in 1861 on land donated by the Chapin family. The Chapins were tool manufacturers who developed Pine Meadow as a rural industrial village in the nineteenth century. The church replaced an earlier St. John’s, which was built in 1850 at the south end of Church Street. The church had held its first services in 1849 in Chapin Hall and Hermon Chapin, Sr. had donated the land for the building. The first St. John’s Church burned down in a fire sparked by a Christmas tree, that started late on the 23rd of December, 1859.
Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church of Westport was formed in 1944 as a merger of two earlier Episcopal parishes. Christ Church (built 1833), which stood at the northeast corner of the Post Road and Ludlow Street, was consecrated on November 2, 1835. As the town grew new residents arrived who wanted a more progressive parish. In 1863 they built another Episcopal church, the Memorial Church of the Holy Trinity at 75 Church Lane. The new church was built on the site of the Disbrow Tavern, where George Washington stopped on June 28, 1775, on his way to Boston to assume command of the Continental Army. The two congregations merged in 1944, selling the former Christ Church and retaining the larger Holy Trinity Church building.