Waterbury Churches – #ThursdayDoors

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Waterbury, named for the abundant waterways in and around the city was an early industrial stronghold in Connecticut. In keeping with the tradition of most towns in New England, some of the first structures built in the city were churches. Three churches were visible as I strolled around the downtown Green last month. I took some pictures, and I found additional photos in the National Registry of Historic Buildings (NBHB) and other sources, including a fourth church that I didn’t see in person.

While each church has enough interesting elements in its history to fill books (several have been written) I am going to go light on the history here (was that a sigh of relief I heard) since I am combining photos of multiple churches.

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception – Waterbury Catholics began worship in the early 1800s in various residences as visiting priests from New Haven traveled there to conduct services. St. Mary’s School, one of the buildings I featured last week was one of the early parishes in Waterbury. The Church of the Immaculate Conception was the first church in America to bear that name after the Immaculate Conception  decree was promulgated in December 1854.

They broke ground for the current church in 1924 and it was dedicated May 20, 1928. The Italian Renaissance design is based on the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. On February 9, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI bestowed the title of Minor Basilica on the church.

On a personal note, I attended several daytime masses in this church while working in Waterbury in the late 1980s. The interior is beautiful.

St. John’s Episcopal Church – From the church’s website,

St. John’s traces its roots to the year 1732, when a group of Anglican churchmen under the auspices of the Venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts established St. James Parish in Waterbury. The first church building was erected in 1743 at the corner of West Main and Willow Streets. The parish outgrew this small building by the turn of the century. The second church was built and consecrated as  St. John’s Church on November 1, 1797. It was located on the Green where the Soldiers’ Monument now stands. St. John’s third church was erected on the current site in 1848 and was totally destroyed by fire on Christmas Eve, 1868. Services were held in a temporary building for over four years.

The fourth and present church was consecrated on June 24, 1873. Designed by architect Henry Dudley of New York, this neo-gothic structure was built on the foundations of the burned building.

The First Congregational Church – This is the most curious of the three buildings I encountered. It is the oldest church in Waterbury, dating back to a meeting-house on the green in 1691. After outgrowing that building, a new church was built. A third church was built in 1795 and a fourth one around 1840.

The current church is the result of the merger of congregations in the Waterbury area. What strikes me as curious about the church is the modern construction. I wasn’t able to find much information about the design. Perhaps they were trying to avoid the cost of maintaining a traditional church with its columns and steeple. Perhaps it was just a sign of the times.

In any case, I hope you enjoy the current and historic pictures of these beautiful houses of worship.

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  1. Those RED doors!! Awesome. Handsome buildings Dan…..the doors, windows, brickwork, architecture, steeples…..what’s not to like!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. They truly are works of art. I guess people put so much into the building of their churches to signify strength and longevity. Their houses don’t always last but the churches do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The churches were usually the first structure they built. So often, they built a church, outgrew it and built a bigger one. In many cases, another congregation took over the smaller church. The first Roman Catholic Church was when the parish moved out of a private residence and into the old Episcopal church.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a special love for churches and your photo journey underscored some of the reasons. Beautiful edifices, beautiful doors. Thank you, Dan. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • I share that love, Gwen. The churches built here in the 1800s and early 1900s display the strength of faith those people brought with them when they came to America. I’m so glad these are being preserved.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have always asked husband to turn around or pull over so I could take photos of churches. Something about them is fascinating. That Episcopal church is beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jesh. That’s St. John’s. It is a lovely church. “Pandemic Driving” is, as you say, humorous term for not such a humorous thing.

      I like the doors you shared this week. You’ve got some winners in there.


  5. St. John’s rectory is huge!  I always think of the poor people who give all to build these huge churches when the money could be used to help care and feed them.

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

    Liked by 2 people

    • I sometimes feel that way, too, Cheryl, but St. John’s has a large number of community service programs that are run out of the church. I believe they also play(ed) a significant role in training new priests. I’m guessing that’s why the rectory is so large, This is when I feel like I’ve cut corners by not revealing all the history.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have been to noon service at one of the churches, but I don’t recall the bells ringing. Of course, it was a weekday. I would image there are times when they all ring.It would be special.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I wonder how many members there are today in the Venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts! Oh my gosh, I wonder how long it took them to come up with this name? That First Congregational Church looks like it could topple over with the height of that bell tower alone! I like history so your post was perfect! Well Done! Cady

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. It’s interesting to think that I live in foreign parts, at least at one time. The history of religion and New England is ironic, to say the least. Settlers came here to escape what they considered religious persecution but then established churches that everyone had to belong to (or at least pay). St. John’s is the oldest of these three, and my favorite.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What beautiful worshipful places! Just beautiful! The antique photos elevate the collection, too. It’s so cool to see how unchanging they are — ya know, cause they don’t build em like that anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for sharing that wonderful collection of religious buildings, which admired more for their whole, rather than focusing on the doors this week. It’s provided me with the illusion of travel. I particularly enjoyed seeing the snow, which is such novelty to most Australians like myself.
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, that was definitely a big surprise. I’m not sure someone outside of New England would be as shocked.

        On a side note, this is something you (Mr. fix-it-twilight-zone) will love: remember the robot video dancing to “Do You Love Me”? The company is based in Boston. Of course my class wrote them a letter. This was a while ago, and also a blog post about science and engineering. Well, they emailed me a few days ago! They loved the letter and want to do a Zoom with the kids, hopefully showing them more robots. OMG! And yes, the children still beg for the video every day after nap. 14 children are glued around my phone. I knew you would love this story, Dan.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I love those red doors at St. John’s and the Basilica Building. It’s classic! They sure don’t make buildings like anymore. More’s the pity.

    The original Congregational Church building was really great. I like it better than the modern version today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like the original better than the new one as well. St John’s is keeper, that’s for sure. The Basilica is beautiful inside. I was working across the street one year durning Lent an my client was going to mass everyday. I went with him a number of times.

      Liked by 1 person

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