By Leslie Judge
(October 16, 2023) — The Congregational Church in Killingworth, on Sunday, October 29, 2023, will celebrate its 203rd year and the completion of its four-year restoration project, Preservation 2020, which involved nearly every aspect of the sanctuary and its surroundings.
The original church construction began in 1817 and was completed in 1820. According to Killingworth historian Tom Lentz, author of the History of the Congregational Church in Killingworth, Connecticut, it included a long list of building materials from 1817 such as: “Pine Lumber, $522.64; Window Glass, $96.00; 128 pounds of cut nails, $22.75; and even a “1 ½ pint of rum used when boring logs, $.29.”
Our recent restoration project, Preservation 2020, began in 2018 as a special committee to oversee its progress. The goal was to be completed in 2020 to coincide with the church’s 200th birthday, but plans were curtailed by Covid.
Like many houses of worship throughout the world, things then got creative – Zoom and Facebook services and meetings, outdoor worship with chairs arranged at safe distances and sometimes parking lot services with worshipers remaining in their cars. Also during this uncertain time, we warmly welcomed Rev. Dave Hammett (and his wife Kay) as our new minister in early 2021.
In spite of the challenges, the church was able to begin outdoor construction. We received grants from the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO) and the Community Foundation of Middlesex County, in addition to donations and generosity from the congregation, the community, local businesses and beyond.
Broken into six phases in four years, work included belfry and steeple repairs, a chimney demolition, exterior carpentry, molding and trim, windows and painting. The next phase moved inside to the sanctuary for ceiling plaster repair, painting and re-stenciling. Replacement of a new clock and hands, plus a carillon was followed by repaving the driveway and replacing cushions and carpet in the sanctuary.
As in 1817-20, our current restoration was completed by Connecticut-based contractors and tradespeople who included specialists in historic church restorations.
The Congregational Church in Killingworth is the literal and figurative center of Killingworth. In addition to the congregation, it serves as host to many local organizations such as the New Haven Girls Choir, area Boy Scout troops, the Killingworth pre-school, Green Hill Martial Arts, the Wednesday Senior Estuary Lunches and many more. The town’s Memorial Day ceremonies are held on the church lawn, and the annual Killingworth Road Race in early August begins and ends at its front door.
Photos by Leslie Judge and Clark Judge