Two weeks ago, when we were celebrating our long-time coworker’s retirement, I took note of the side of Glastonbury, Connecticut that I don’t normally drive through. As you might expect, I was paying attention to doors. About ½ mile north of the Connecticut River Valley Inn, is St. James Episcopal Church. It caught my attention for two reasons. One, stone. Do I need to say more? I love stone buildings. The second reason was that the doors appeared to have an interesting decorative element on their panels.
I went back to visit the church the following week. I took some pictures and later that evening, I visited their website. Most of the churches I’ve featured have an “Our History” page on their site.
Not this one.
In fact, of all the churches I’ve featured, this one had the least amount of information available. I was able to determine that the church was founded in 1857. The cornerstone was laid on April 25, 1859. If that seems like it must be a mistake, it’s not. Churches were frequently formed before a congregation had enough money to build a building. Typically, they would meet in homes or businesses, or town buildings, until their own facility was far enough along to hold services. Like a few of the churches I’ve researched, it survived a devastating fire in 1904 that gutted the interior.
The congregation rebuilt the interior and the church has been serving the community ever since. They replaced the Parish Hall in 1956. While they probably couldn’t afford to continue using stone, I really like the way they designed the new building to pay respect to the old. I think it’s one of the nicest marriages of old and new that I’ve seen. The new two-level attached building houses the church offices, classrooms, and a 1,750 sf parish hall with kitchen, library, and meeting room. The church was enlarged in 1965, increasing the seating capacity to 240 people.
Ironically, my first attraction to this church, the fact that it’s built from stone, is a bit of an illusion. The church is built from wood and bricks, with a brownstone facing. The brownstone was quarried about 15 miles south in Portland, CT and transported to the building site by river barge and oxen. I think you will agree, they did a very nice job.
This church has a connection to another Episcopal church, one that I’ve been to and one that I hope to feature on Thursday Doors in the not too distant future.
As for that interesting decoration on the doors, I can’t tell for sure if it’s an “upside down cross” – which would make more sense if it was St. Peter’s Church – or something else of significance. I’ve searched for images of similar doors, but found none. If anybody knows, please leave a comment.
Thursday Doors in a fun and interesting series, organized and promoted by Norm Frampton. If you want to join us, simply visit Norm’s website. There, you will find a blue links thing that will take you to see the other doors and give you a chance to share a door of your own. Thursday Doors can be posted until noon on Saturday.