Oxford United Church of Christ Congregational

1798 (1976 #88, WPA #10)


For over 275 years the United Church of Christ Congregational has stood on Meeting House Acrefirst as a modest two-story structure with no heat, and then as the building on site today. The oldest church in Oxford, it was established as the Ecclesiastical Society of Oxford in May 1741 by the Connecticut General Assembly. In October of that year, a site owned by Ephraim Washburn was chosen for the first meetinghouse and construction began on the 38 x 32 x 19 foot building. Although the structure wasnt completed for fourteen years due to lack of funds, the first services were held there on June 21, 1743. A pulpit was installed in 1748.


Records are unclear as to whether the original church burned or whether it became overcrowded. Some tim- bers in the present church do exhibit charring. What is known is that in 1793 a vote was taken to build the present Meeting House, including a tower steeple that rose from the ground and was attached to the building. The new structure was planned to be 56 feet long, and 40 feet wide, and located on the Meeting House acre, about 100 yards from the original building. Constructed by Timothy Candee for $3,300, it was completed in 1795 according to the date cut into one of the foundation stones. A bell was purchased in 1797, but it cracked in 1800 and was replaced. The tower steeple needed constant repairs, and it was torn down in 1836.


In 1830, the church was used for meetings of the Se lectmen of the town and for Electors meetings. These were permitted until 1839 when, after a thorough building repair, it was voted to close the house against all meetings for the transaction of public business.


In the 1830s, a major remodeling of the interior of the Meeting House saw the installation of a full partition to separate the sanctuary of the house from the vestibule. In 1832, the box pews in the body of the church, installed in 1798, were taken up and replaced with slips, and changes were also made in the upper gallery where the choir sang. Additional early changes included a belfry on the roof and a melodeon which was added in 1860, erasing a church tradition that frowned on any form of organ.


The present church at 3 Academy Road is greatly altered from the original Meeting House built in 1798. The front is in the Greek revival style, and the front and side walls show clapboards that are not original. The old horse shed was removed, and the Parish House was added in 1959. Aluminum siding now covers all exterior walls. The windows, however, are believed to be original. A new steeple was constructed in 1992, and its spotlight added in 1998. The interior of the sanctuary was completely rebuilt and dedicated in May 2008.