The Congressional Church

Lost Mansfield > The Congressional Church

LOST MANSFIELD # 6: THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH IN MANSFIELD CENTER. Founded in 1710, the Congregational church in Mansfield Center is the oldest church in Tolland County.

It is closely connected with the founding and early history of the Town of Mansfield. The first meeting house was constructed on a hill near the old town pond on the west side of Meetinghouse Road (now Browns Road).

Congressional Church landscape drawing
This engraving of a John Warner Barber drawing from the 1830s shows the second meetinghouse that was built on the site where the present day church is located. It burned on March 13, 1866.
Photograph Congressional Church
This photograph of the church built in 1866 was taken in the 1880s. Edwin Fitch’s design reflects the then popular Italianate style. The façade features three round-headed windows topped by a circular window, all placed within an applied archway. This window treatment is reminiscent of those found in Italian Romanesque churches. The motif is repeated in the triple arched portico at the front entrance.

The original church was outgrown and was replaced by a larger church, completed in 1754. The second meetinghouse was built on the site where the present day church is located. It was destroyed by fire on March 14, 1866. There is a first-hand account of the fire in a letter written by Robert Porter Barrows to Lucius, his older brother, dated April 16, 1866. “A visiting revivalist preacher, Reverend Potter, had been holding four-day revival meetings commencing on March 13, 1866…” “On the evening of the burning of the Church the body of the house was full and 50 went forward for prayers; as it was dark many lanterns were lit in the parade and we think it was possible the Church took fire that way.”

Congressional Church today
The First Church of Christ in Mansfield today

That same year, the present church was constructed on the same site. It was designed by Edwin S. Fitch and built by Ralph Chappell. In his design, Fitch transitioned from his earlier Greek Revival style to the then favored Italianate style. The new church was reoriented to face the Main Road (now Route 195), rather than Browns Road.

This series is made possible by a Capacity Building Grant from The Last Green Valley, Inc.

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