Hartford, Connecticut: Multiple church stories. Multiple Capitals. Let's start in Danbury.
My column is called Capitols and Churches and it is my story of the 51 Capitols I visited in 2013 to find church and state symbolism between each Capitol and it's closest physical church. The one detour from this mission was to Danbury, Connecticut on the way to Hartford. Why? Because of the 1801 letter sent to President Thomas Jefferson from the Danbury Baptist Association. His response letter has been widely recognized for his metaphor answer that included "separation of church and state. So I had to stop by and see what remains of the Danbury Baptists in 2013.
I met my friend Caryl for coffee and we went searching for Baptist churches in Danbury. It was somewhat elusive as the Association has scattered over the many years. We did meet one pastor who mentioned the government controlling the rules of their meeting space for fellowship and he pointed Caryl in the direction of the cemetery were some of the original writers were buried. She continued her search later and I continued on to Hartford. I did however find this article that captures the history of Danbury Baptists from then to now. http://doverfirstbaptist.org/about/separation-of-church-state.
It was dark when I arrived in Hartford and the closest church building I could find was Second Church of Christ Scientist. Organized in 1907 it was sold to the state in 2008 and now is the state library. If I had walked further east down toward the Connecticut river I would have found First Presbyterian Church of Hartford. The first group of this church met in Gilmans Saloon in 1851. Four moves later they built a church at the corner of Capitol and Clinton.
The current capitol is the third capitol building of Connecticut. Two in Hartford and one in New Haven. From the American Revolution until after the Civil War, Connecticut maintained multiple capitols alternating on a seasonal basis. The architect Ithiel Town engineered Center Church (1812), Trinity Church (1813), and designed the State House (1827) on the Green in New Haven. The Old State House in Hartford is still standing and was designed in 1792. After Hartford won the competition to be the sole Capital, the current Statehouse was built and finished in 1878. The site was chosen because it is adjacent to Bushnell Park and its abundant open space.
The closest church to both the old and new Capitol buildings in Hartford is appropriately called Center Church- the first church of christ UCC. The first two meeting houses were built on the site of the Old State House today. The third and fourth were built on its current site within view of both state houses.
My quick visit in the dark to Hartford in 2013 just scratched the surface of what I would find out about Capitol and Church history in Connecticut. It is and deep and long journey of discovery that still matter in the debates of today.
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