Shortly after Collins and Company was founded in 1826, religious services were held in various homes in the South Canton Village which came to be known as Collinsville. In 1830, the Collins Company erected its first office building on Front Street, and religious services were held there on the second floor. The first church building was erected on land bought by Collins and Company in 1826. By the mid-1850’s, the church membership was outgrowing the building. Although there may have been plans to enlarge the building, tragedy struck and in January 1857, and the church was consumed by fire, which started in the chimney, during a winter storm. The current building was erected almost immediately and dedicated on February 25, 1858. The present church is a grand Greek Revival style building, with a full pediment and large entablature supported by four monumental fluted columns. The two-tiered, square belfry has engaged columns as well. What a great example of a New England church!
In 1750, a new parish church was established as The First Ecclesiastical Society of West Simsbury, with parishioners meeting in members’ homes. Then, Canton Connecticut was still a part of Simsbury. In 1763, the Parish constructed a meetinghouse with the building also used for town meetings and other public gatherings. In 1806, Canton separated from Simsbury and the congregation soon after decided that the nearly 50 year old primitive building needed replacement. A new building was proposed and materials were harvested. Stories report that the first tree felled for lumber for the new church killed a parishioner. The beautiful Federal style church edifice features Palladian windows, a hallmark of the style. The congregation is active to this day.
Located across the Town Green from the Tewksbury Town Hall (1920), this Colonial Revival style church with Classical elements, perfectly compliments the design motif seen here. The Tewksbury Congregational Church was established in 1734 by some 34 resident families who, after leaving the church in Billerica, established the new town of Tewksbury. Their first church was erected in 1736, and was replaced in 1824. The second church edifice (and much of the town center) suffered a catastrophic fire in 1918, destroying both structures, and resulting in a rebuilding campaign. Architect Curtis W. Bixby of Watertown, furnished designs for the church, which stands boldly beyond a large front lawn.
The Richmond Congregational Church, built in 1903, is one of the most prominent architectural landmarks in town. The church desired a new place of worship by the end of the 19th century, to replace the outdated 1850s building. Significantly, the building of this 1903 structure corresponded with a period of prosperity for Richmond, generated in large part by the advent of the Richmond Underwear Company in 1900. The Company had come to Richmond at the behest of local officials and business leaders, who provided the company with financial incentives in the hope of fostering economic opportunity, which it did. Additional housing for workers was built on the former church land, and money from the sale helped the congregation get enough funding to hire an architect to furnish plans. The Richmond Congregational Church was designed by one of the few professionally-trained architects working in Vermont at the turn of the century. Walter R. B. Willcox (1869-1947) was a Burlington, Vermont, native who was trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania. He eventually moved to the Pacific Northwest and continued his career there.
The Dane Street Congregational Church in Beverly, MA, was the third church established in town. The congregation was formed as the Dane Street Society in 1802 by a group of seven individuals wanting to secede from the First Parish Church. A meetinghouse was constructed within a year and fifty people immediately joined. The original Dane Street church was a large frame building with porches on either end. In 1832, the first meetinghouse was destroyed by fire, and the parishioners immediately built this building in the Greek and Gothic Revival styles, which work very well together in this design. The church expanded in 1896 and constructed a two-story addition on the side with a bowed façade covered with flushboard siding, full height pilasters, heavily molded arched windows, and a roof balustrade. The church is now occupied by High Rock Church, who run ten churches in the Boston area.
Located adjacent to the Washington Meeting House and Central Schoolhouse on the Washington, New Hampshire Town Green, the Washington Congregational Church perfectly compliments the collection of vernacular buildings here to create a very cohesive, three-building historic district. The church is dominated by a Gothic-inspired two stage square tower adorned by pointed pinnacles and crenellation. The building, constructed in 1840, is a great example of a Gothic Revival vernacular church building in rural New Hampshire and has been well-maintained over the years. In 1960, a fire in the church resulted in several thousand dollars worth of damage. A full basement was built under the church in 1985 to provide space for Sunday School classes and events. The simple arched sanctuary has remained in keeping with the original interior design, and features wide board wainscoting and wooden pews, taken from the old Meeting House.
When present-day Hamilton, MA was still known as a “Hamlet”, a village without a church of its own, of Ipswich, the few residents there desired a place of worship that was near their homes. They built a small church in 1713 for public worship. In 1762, a larger building was erected on same spot, with two entrances, one side for women and one for men. The church served the hamlet, and later the town of Hamilton until the 1840s, when the town of under 1,000 citizens sought to upgrade the Congregational church. In 1843, the church was completely remodeled using the 1762 church framing, in the modern Greek Revival style. The church has an active congregation to this day.
The present Congregational Church in Hollis, NH is the fourth to be located on this site and was constructed in 1925, replacing an earlier 1804 building destroyed by fire in 1923. The church is oriented with its porticoed facade facing Monument Square and perfectly blends in with the Colonial era homes and buildings around the green to retain the integrity of one of the best town centers in Southern NH. The present church building was designed by Boston architect Oscar Thayer.
Attempts were made to organize the Congregational Church in Thetford, Vermont as early as 1771, making this congregation among the five earliest in the state. As was typical of the day, the meetinghouse was intended to serve both public and religious functions, before the separation of church and state. Following the customary dispute over the location of the meetinghouse in town, the structure was erected on the Town Common, marking the beginning of the village of Thetford Hill. Construction began on the meetinghouse in 1785, being completed within a couple years. Sometime between 1807 and 1812, the Congregational Church ceased to be supported by taxes as the separation of church and state resulted in the sale of the meetinghouse and its subsequent move in 1830, from the town-owned common to its present site just north of it. In 1830, the pavilion, tower, and pilasters were added to give the church a Greek Revival flair. The church is reportedly the oldest meetinghouse in the state still in continuous service.
The Congregational Church of Chelsea is an outstanding structure in its own right, but also an important component in the village of a well-preserved Vermont hill town. Constructed as the Chelsea Congregational Church in the years 1811-1813, the church’s plan is derived from plates published in Asher Benjamin’s “The American Builder’s Companion”. Notable original Federal style elements include the central pavilion and the steeple, a fine vernacular version of Benjamin’s design. In the 1840s, the interior was reconfigured and the exterior given Greek Revival elements including the wide entablature and corner pilasters. In 1929, the Chelsea Congregational Church merged with Methodist Church to form the United Church of Chelsea. It is now known as Living Water UPCI. The church has remained an important part of the village and region for over 200 years.