Title: Chester, Connecticut web site.

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Chester Meeting House

Stage.

In 1740 the people of Chester withdrew from the Second Ecclesiastical Society in Centerbrook and set up a simple first Meeting House which served the community for 50 years. The site of the original building was at the foot of the hill, across from the old cemetery. In 1793, according to early records, the community voted to erect a meeting

Outside view of Meeting House.

house on the site which the building occupies today. This second Meeting House, of the Fourth Ecclesiastical Society of Saybrook, served as a church until 1845 when the third Meeting House was built on the site adjacent to the present United Church. In 1847, the Town of Chester bought the meeting house building, complete with stoves and furniture, for $300.00. It was used for town meetings from that date until 1960 and was referred to as the Old Town Hall from then on. It is one of a very few buildings in New England which have been in continual use for 200 years.
      Thanks to the generosity of two Chester residents, Merritt Brooks and Stephen Shortland in the remodeling of 1876, the building was to enjoy its "heyday" as a theater and concert hall. A stage was added and the balcony extended to its present horseshoe shape. Panels from the earlier church were used in the ceiling and walls of the stage and at the top of the stairs to the balcony. The Old Town Hall soon became part of the "musical renaissance" of the Lower Connecticut Valley with Goodspeed Opera House, music schools and conservatories.

Gazebo.

      The Old Town Hall witnessed many events under its roof. P.T. Barnum's midget star, Tom Thumb, appeared there as did Barber Shop quartets, local drama productions, recitals, pageants, high school proms and square dances, fairs and school graduations. However, the construction of the Chester Elementary School in 1960 marked the end of this era of activity. The building ceased to be used for town meetings and community affairs. It was subsequently used for occasional auctions and benefit programs until 1970, when the Chester Historical Society, who held their meetings in the building, became interested in its preservation.

Side view of Meeting House.

      The first major goal of the society was the restoration of the Old Town Hall (now called the Chester Meeting House) which dating from 1795, had fallen upon bad days of disrepair and disuse. In March 1972, the Old Town Hall was listed on the National Register for Historic Sites. During the winter of 1972-73, the building was completely refurbished and renovated. On Memorial Day 1973, the restoration was completed and the Old Town Hall was reopened at a town-wide reception following the annual parade.
      Since that time the Meeting House has been used extensively for town meetings and public hearings; the Historical Society-sponsored Robbie Collomore Cultural Series and Craftworks, concert recitals, theatrical performances of the Meeting House Players; The National Theatre of the Deaf, meetings of civil groups both of Chester and state wide organizations; meetings of artists and craftsmen; political parties, weddings and memorial services.

Side view of Meeting House.

      To better accommodate the increasing number of the concerts and plays, a second fund drive was launched to finance a subsequent addition which was completed in the spring of 1985 and dedicated to the memory of Burton Cornwall, a Chester voice teacher, gifted performer and a trustee and benefactor of the Historical Society. This addition increased the size of the stage and provided space for dressing rooms and storage. An Archives room was also included on the lower level to house the Historical Society's growing collection of town artifacts and memorabilia. In 1995 the balcony was carpeted and the remaining pew panels were installed to separate the rows of seating. A handicapped bathroom was added and the entire interior was painted. The ramp for the handicapped was relocated and extensive landscaping done.

Parking lot.

      The Meeting House is a cherished landmark building and all who enjoy using it are asked to treat it with care and respect. An application for use of the building may be obtained by contacting the Selectman's Office, at the Town Office Building, 526-0013 Ext. 202.

Curtain closed. Come again.

Chester Meeting House
4 Liberty Street
Chester CT 06412
860-526-0015

From the North:

  • Take Route 9 South, to exit 6, Chester.
  • At the end of ramp at stop sign, turn left.
  • Follow this road all the way into the center of town.
  • At the four-way stop at the center of town, turn left onto North Main Street.
  • Take this road until you see a split/fork in the road – veer right up Goose Hill Road.
  • At the rise of the hill you will see a gazebo and the Meeting House.
  • Veer to the left of the gazebo and turn right into the parking lot for the Meeting House.

From the South:

  • Take Route 9 North, to exit 6, Chester.
  • At end of the ram at stop sign, turn right.
  • Follow this road all the way into the center of town.
  • At the four-way stop at the center of town, turn left onto North Main Street.
  • Take this road until you see a split/fork in the road – veer right up Goose Hill Road.
  • At the rise of the hill, you will see a gazebo and the Meeting House.
  • Veer to the left of the gazebo and turn right into the parking lot for the Meeting House.

Contact the Town Office Building with any questions at 860-526-0013, Ext. 202

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