The first meeting house served the needs of the people until the latter part of 1736. As early as November 21, 1734, "the inhabitants of the North Society voted it was a necessity to build a new meeting house in a said Society." But it was not until the latter end of January or the beginning of "Feby," 1735, that the work actually began, and the house was not ready to raise until March of the following year. The raising of the ponderous timbers for a meeting house in those early days was a formidable undertaking.
Sergt. Shepard, Hugh White and Capt. John Warner were appointed a committee on raising. The parish was divided into three parts and each part directed to furnish dinner on the day the committee should order.
In 1736, the second meeting house was ready for occupancy. It was 55 feet long and 36 feet wide. It stood on the village green opposite the former Belden Library building and was used for more than a century. At first it was close to the roadway, so that people dismounted directly upon the steps. In 1813 it was moved back four or five rods, (a rod equals 16 1/2 feet) by permission of the County Court.
During the pastorate of Zebulon Crocker, several ambitious projects were undertaken. One of them was the building of the Academy, later used as a district school and, for many years, the Belden Library. Two other projects were the building of a third meeting house and a parsonage.
The third meeting house was built in 1840 and is the one in current use. The original cost of this third meeting house was $6,385.87, of which $300 was for the land. The bell cost $400. Seventy-five people subscribed $5,318 to this project; forty-six people subscribed $1,981.90 for the parsonage. It took ten years to finally clear the total debt incurred by these projects.
It is interesting to note that the foundation stones for the church building were drawn across the ice from the Portland brownstone quarry by volunteers. When completed it was 69 feet long by 44 feet wide, with two towers, one above the other. The 1938 hurricane took off the top tower, which was replaced in 1976.
In 1940, under the leadership of Russell A. Frisbie, the church voted to repair the hurricane damages to the one-hundred-year old structure and to build an addition. The addition was dedicated March 7, 1941, commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Building and the 225th Anniversary of the Church.
In 1957, further repairs to the church building were undertaken and three brick buttresses each were added to the north and south walls to strengthen them. In the same year, a second annex was added to the rear of the church, to provide larger facilities for the church's Christian Education work and this was dedicated on May 4, 1958.
Sixteen of the first twenty ministers and their families occupied the parsonage on Main Street. However, in 1964, with the coming of a new minister, a new parsonage on Bellaire Manor was purchased and the old parsonage placed on sale.
At the 1975 Annual Meeting of the First Congregational Church, it was voted to establish a committee to look into restoring the tower which was damaged in the 1938 hurricane. The committee was formed and immediately began their task of a restoration of the tower in keeping with the original structure of the church. A Memorial Tower Fund was established and many donations were received from members and friends. The new aluminum tower, ("lantern") was erected on November 9, 1976. A Service of Dedication was held January 6, 1977, which was the 136th anniversary of the dedication of the church building.
First Congregational Church
P.O. Box 156
355 Main Street
Cromwell, Connecticut 06416-0156