Early History of North Congregational Church — 1828 to 1895
The first buildings in the “north village” (now town center) of New Hartford began to rise in 1734. They extended on the Albany Turnpike (now Rte.44) along the Farmington River. Meanwhile the town founders, 32 young men and their families with rights as “proprietors” from Hartford, laid out farms up and down both sides of Town Hill Road (now Rte. 219). Per custom they put the requisite Congregational Church at the hilltop.
By the 1820s, the north village was bustling with water-powered mills and new technology. Newcomers didn’t share the farming heritage of the original settled families. Progressives chafed at the old-fashioned Town Hill Church. In 1828 amid the clash of values and complaints about the long trek up the steep hill to the church, 60 Town Hill Church members left to build North Congregational Church in town center. Harry Seymour donated the church grounds and land for the short road leading to the church, Church Street North, was given equally by William G. Williams and Harry Cowles.
The new congregation incorporated on Nov. 18, 1828 as the North Ecclesiastical Society of New Hartford. The church building was dedicated on Christmas Day, 1828. It was a “modern,” brick Greek Revival: austere sanctuary, clear glass windows, lofty white-and-gold pulpit, high-backed family pews, and a singers gallery across the back.
The church was renovated in 1890: high pulpit replaced by a raised platform with lecture podium, choir area next to the podium, pews cut down to low backs, and an elaborate pipe organ purchased “by subscription” for $1750. Miss Ellen Hazen made a legacy donation of a baptismal font. The new design scheme was “tasteful tints of golden olive with trimmings of warm brown” and “harmonious coloring cover” on the floors. Most notable were 15 new stained-glass windows, nine large and six smaller. Only one clear glass window remained, a nod of respect to a simpler time.
The congregation grew with the town. By 1895 it had 122 members and 189 in Sunday School.
Donna Howard, Church Historian
Photo taken June 12, 1960 on the occasion of laying the corner stone of the John Cotton Smith Parish House showing group of people who attended the Children’s Day exercises.