Source: MyRecordJournal.com By Andrew Ragali Record-Journal staff
MERIDEN — Center Congregational Church, the oldest house of worship in the city, is undergoing its most extensive renovation since 1870.
The congregation has met at three churches since 1729. The present church, located at 474 Broad St., was built in 1830. In October, the church will celebrate its 286th anniversary.
Over the past two years, about 200 members of the congregation raised nearly $100,000 for renovations, said Jack Brooks, a member of the church renovation committee. Another $150,000 is being borrowed from the congregation’s endowment. Work began this spring and is expected to finish next month.
Original wooden pews in the church have been removed, as well as 22 stained glass windows. The church’s interior, which is white and decorated with elegant wood and stone carvings, is being repainted this month.
The pews will be replaced next month. Energy efficient windows have already replaced the stained glass windows. Some of the original pews were sold to members of the congregation and a salvaging company, Brooks said. Stained glass windows were sold to an antiques dealer and some congregation members.
The church’s steeple will also undergo minor repairs and painting in September. The dome at the top of the steeple will be coated in gold leaf instead of being repainted, Brooks said.
Artech Church Interiors, based in Ridgefield, is handling the renovation project.
“They know what they’re doing,” Ronnie Forrest, also a member of the renovation committee, said of the company. “Their expertise is in old buildings and how to restore them.”
A celebration will be held once the project is complete. Since work began, services have been held in the church’s basement. Town meetings and public gatherings were once held in the basement of the church when Meriden was colonized.
“I have 56 years of memories here,” Forrest said. “There’s a lot of history here.”
Brooks, a member of the congregation for 35 years, hopes the renovations attract a new generation of churchgoers.
“I just love the old building,” he said. “I see the result of what this is going to be when it’s done, and hopefully it will draw in new membership. That’s one of our goals.”
The church was first established on Ann Street near Dryden Drive by Theophilus Hall in 1729.
In 1755, a new meeting house was built on Broad Street, south of the church’s current location. The church served as a meeting house for town meetings until 1828, when the town outgrew the facility. After the second meeting house suffered wood rot and deterioration, the present church was built in 1830.
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