Founded in 1710, when Waterford was still part of New London, the Baptist Church was one of the dominant institutions in the historical development of the Jordan Village, which became the historic population center of town. The fact that Jordan Village in Waterford sprang up around a Baptist and not a Congregational church gives it an unusual religious significance in the state. The Baptist denomination was introduced to Connecticut from Rhode Island in 1705. The separation from the City of New London, which was organized around the locally supported Congregational church, was due in large part to the differences between the the formal, structured, Congregationalists and the evangelical Baptist farmers. In 1848, when this church in Jordan Village was built, many residents followed the architectural vocabulary and built Greek Revival homes nearby, creating a large development boom in the new town center. The church remains today as an active member of the community.
On September 15, 1847, a ship carrying 66 men and women and children docked at Long Wharf in Boston. This group of ex-slaves, led by Rev. Peter Randolph, emancipated by their former slave master Carter H. Edlow from the Brandon Plantation in Prince Georges County, Virginia. Members of the Boston Anti-Slavery Society, led by William Lloyd Garrison met the newcomers and made them welcome by securing lodging and work for self-support. The group settled in the South End on Ottaway Court not far from the Holy Cross Cathedral. The group first joined the Twelfth Baptist Church of Boston before establishing their own congregation. They eventually occupied this church in 1887, the building was designed by architect Nathaniel Bradlee in 1860, which was built for what was then the Third Presbyterian Church of Boston. The church has remained here for nearly 150 years, seeing the rapid change in the neighborhood. The church building accommodated meetings including the Professional Black Women’s Business Club, which bolstered Black women in business, many members owned stores in the South End. Many members left the area amid growing gentrification in the 1980s and 1990s, and from that, the aging population remaining made keeping the doors open difficult. Sadly, the church relocated out of the building in 2020 and appears to have sold the building, leaving its future uncertain.
Walking down the main street in Beverly, I was stopped in my tracks to see what appeared to be a 19th century steeple attached to a Modern church. I snapped a photo hoping I could find information on the architectural oddity I saw. The church is the First Baptist Church of Beverly, which was founded in 1800. The congregation’s first place of worship was constructed a year later for the town’s small Baptist population. The building was eventually outgrown and a large church was constructed in 1866 on Cabot Street, the main commercial street in town. The massive wooden church was an architectural landmark and its steeple has served as a lighthouse since the 1920s! The Coast Guard installed a range light in the steeple in 1921 as ships began using the harbor to get to the Salem power plant. It shines every night, even now, and can be seen 13 miles out to sea. Sadly, in 1975, a blaze ripped through the 880-seat sanctuary and chapel, destroying almost all of the church, but the steeple was saved thanks to firefighters from over 15 nearby towns who came to the aid of Beverly. The congregation noted that as the steeple persevered, so would they. A new, Modern church was designed, and incorporated the corner steeple into the new sanctuary, creating the interesting blending of mid-19th and -20th century styles.
Residents in the eastern portion of the rural town of Washington, NH found it very inconvenient to attend church at the center of town. In 1800, a group of residents on the east side of town banded together to create a new congregation, building a church perched on a low hill soon by 1826. The church was used for decades until it burned in 1844, it was replaced a year later, but that burned as well. Undeterred, the small congregation had yet another church built in 1877. The church remains in great condition, and is still active.
In early New England, the Congregational Church had a near monopoly on churches. Congregational churches had lost much of its hold on its members and on government by 1725. Eventually, some of its ministers decided a religious revival was needed, creating the emergence of new Baptist and Methodist churches all over the region. Baptists erected a church in West Suffield, far from the town center, which began to rapidly develop in the early 19th century. In 1805, they petitioned to create a second Baptist church, and succeeded. By 1840, the members collected funds to erect this stunning Greek Revival church on Main Street. The congregation hired architect Henry Sykes, who had trained under Chauncey Shepherd of Springfield, Mass and Ithiel Town of New Haven, clearly learning a lot on church design.