The First Congregational Church was first established in Ridgefield, Connecticut just four years after the establishment of the town. Civic leaders in October 1712 successfully petitioned the Connecticut General Assembly for permission to levy a tax for “the settling and maintaining of the ministry in the said Town of Ridgefield.” Rev. Thomas Hauley, the first minister, also served as town clerk and school teacher. The first meeting house, on the town green, opened for worship in 1726. Plans for a new meeting house were drawn up in 1771 to fit a growing population, but construction was not complete until 1800. The second church was built in a more traditional style with a steeple. With a shift in the towns demographic from rural homeowners to ritzy exurb to New York City, a more suitable church was required by the end of the 19th century. Josiah Cleaveland Cady, one of the many great New York architects at the time was hired to design a new church suitable for the wealthy New Yorkers who summered in town to consider a neighbor, and he did not disappoint! The building blends many styles from Queen Anne, to Victorian Gothic, to Romanesque Revival in a way that isn’t clunky as in some other versions.
Located just a block of Main Street in Ridgefield, Connecticut, St. Mary’s Catholic Church stands out as a rare example of Victorian Gothic architecture in a village full of Colonial (and Revival) and mid-19th century buildings. The first known Catholic to arrive in town was James Brophy, who’s family settled in Ridgefield in 1848. While growth of a local Catholic church in Ridgefield was slowly being established, the character of the town was changing by the second half of the 19th century, with wealthy New Yorkers building homes for vacationing in the summers. From this, many Irish Catholic immigrants were hired to work on the new estates. The first permanent Catholic church in town was built in 1867 as a modest wood frame church. As the congregation grew, a new church edifice was needed, and after a capital campaign, funds were gathered to erect a new church. Connecticut architect Joseph A. Jackson (who specialized in ecclesiastical design), was hired to furnish plans for the new church. The building exhibits eclectic architectural styles. Gothic design is seen in the pointed or lancet windows, arches and cast iron finials. The Queen Anne style is reflected in the use of textured and varied building materials, such as brick, brownstone, and shingles. And St. Mary’s most unique feature, its unusual steeple with its four turreted abutments and conical roof worked in shingles, is representative of the Shingle style.
The Baptist Meetinghouse in Willington was built in 1829 by a local carpenter Albert Sharp, in a transitional Federal/Greek Revival style, common for the period. Its clapboarded facade has a projecting pavilion with two entrances flanking a two-story round-arched window. Four pilasters are surmounted by a wide entablature and the flushboarded pediment of the pavilion. Round-arched windows are repeated on the side elevations and the belfry, which is topped by an octagonal drum and a small dome. The Willington Baptist Church was organized in 1828, started by Rev. Hubbell Loomis, the fourth pastor of the Congregational Church across the common. Rev. Loomis was prominent both as a minister and an educator, and founder of Shurtleff College of Illinois. During his pastorate at the Willington Congregational Church, Mr. Loomis had strong tendencies toward Baptist sentiments. From this, membership of the congregational church split, some leaving for a new Baptist belief and others remained at the congregational church. The two congregations were split until 1911, when they again worshiped under the same roof, as the Federated Church of Willington, meeting in this building.
The Congregational or Town Church of Willington, Connecticut, has existed since the town’s incorporation in 1728, but originally met in a member’s small home on the Town Green. The Victorian Gothic style church we see today was built in 1876, after members gathered funds to construct the building. Land, materials, and labor were donated to offset costs for the small congregation. The church flourished until a split in the beliefs led to the formation of the Baptist Church of Willington. Eventually, 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. In 1924, the Old Congregational meeting house, which was erected in 1877, was sold for $1 to the Town of Willington with certain restrictions, the most important of which was that, if it should cease to be used for public meetings under the control of the selectmen, possession would revert to the Congregational Ecclesiastical Society. From 1926-1974, the church was used as town hall (when the smaller building next door was outgrown. The church’s bell was removed during World War II to allow plane-spotters to use the tower. Instead of being placed back in the tower, it was mounted on a pedestal outside the building, where it remains today. The Willington Town Offices moved to a former industrial building a short distance away, but retain and maintain the building.
Located adjacent to the Town Common, the First Church of Christ in Suffield showcases the grandiose architecture seen in many churches after the Civil War in New England. This brick edifice is the fifth in the history of the church which dates back to around 1680. The church was designed by local architect John C. Mead, who designed many churches in the region. The church is a blending of Italianate and Romanesque Revival styles and originally featured a tall spire and secondary tower. In 1938, the New England Hurricane destroyed the tall spire (a similar event occurred to many New England Churches, including Old North in Boston). Even without the steeple, the church remains as a great architectural treasure in town.
Suffield (originally Southfield) Connecticut, was once a part of Massachusetts, incorporated as a town in 1682. After having to travel to downtown Suffield to worship at the church there, the families in the west part of town established the Second Ecclesiastical Society in 1743. The first meeting house was built in 1744 on what was known as “Ireland Plain”, now the southwestern corner of the West Suffield Cemetery. In 1775, a second meeting house was erected on the site of the present building. It was rebuilt in 1839 using the earlier foundation. The Greek Revival church building is very charming with its columned portico and belfry surmounted above a stepped parapet. The church is very well preserved and a lasting remnant of West Suffield’s early days.