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First Church of Christ in Hartford - National Fund For Sacred Places
2016 Cohort

First Church of Christ in Hartford

(United church of christ)

Hartford, Connecticut

The First Church of Christ in Hartford, more commonly known as Center Church, sees itself as an “essential part of [the] history, purpose, life, vitality, identity, and agency” of Hartford, Connecticut.

First Church of Christ in Hartford by Cool Guy Slate, CC BY-SA 4.0 

First Church of Christ in Hartford by Cool Guy Slate, CC BY-SA 4.0 

2016 Cohort

First Church of Christ in Hartford

(United church of christ)

Hartford, Connecticut

The First Church of Christ in Hartford, more commonly known as Center Church, sees itself as an “essential part of [the] history, purpose, life, vitality, identity, and agency” of Hartford, Connecticut.

The congregation was founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1632, but disputes between the pastor and Massachusetts governor led a group of parishioners to establish a congregation in Connecticut in 1636. The congregation has occupied four churches, with the original two churches located where the Old State House stands today. Center Church moved to its present location on the corner of the Ancient Burying Ground in 1739 upon the construction of its third church, in which Connecticut ratified the United States Constitution. In 1807, the congregation demolished this building and erected a new Classical Revival church designed by amateur artist and architect Daniel Wadsworth in its place. With a 185-foot-tall Baroque-style spire, Center Church was among the tallest and most opulent structures in the state at the time of constriction

Center Church is committed to responding to issues around housing, racial justice, education, and food insecurity in its community. The congregation serves morning coffee and afternoon community meals on Sundays. The Warburton Resource Outreach of Center Church provides food, housing and utilities assistance, and financial support to community members in need. Congregants from Center Church maintain strong relationships with local officials and interfaith leaders and are involved in many social justice efforts around Hartford.

A National Fund grant of $250,000 with over $1 million in matching funds raised by the congregation facilitated the restoration and stabilization of the steeple, bell tower, and clock. Work also included upgrading the lightning protection system, restoring ornamental iron rails, and repointing the exterior entry staircase. The enhanced structural stability of Center Church has allowed the congregation to share space with additional partners, including another Christian congregation. The project also created opportunities for the congregation to learn more about the construction and history of the building that the community has “always deeply loved and cherished.”

Three Historic Steeples Reach New Heights

Rising dozens, or sometimes hundreds, of feet above churches, steeples and towers have served multiple purposes throughout their history—as beacons of light, timekeepers through clocks and bells, watchtowers, weathervanes, and iconic architectural symbols.

First Church of Christ in Hartford by Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0

Stories and Media Coverage

Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church by Luis P. Gutierrez