Repair Work Underway In Downtown Church

Last October, a chunk of plaster fell from the Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church ceiling, to the sanctuary.

Thank God no one was in the pews. But it it worried clergy and administrators.

Engineers gave the bad news: The plaster had dried out.

Not all of it. The prominent building on the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Church Lane — finished in 1863 — was heavily damaged by a 1951 fire. The part of the ceiling repaired then was in bad shape. The original ceiling itself was fine.

There was more bad news: The lead holding the handsome stained glass windows together had bowed and deteriorated. Several windows needed to be replaced too.

One of the stained glass windows.

Finally, the organ — installed in 1933 — was also found to need repairs.

The project costs $2.5 million. Half has been raised by parishioners so far, under the direction of Kemp Lewis.

If funds remain at the end, they’ll help fix the bell. It used to ring every 15 minutes. It broke over a year ago, and has been silent — unless rung manually, during services — ever since.

Architect, parishioner and property chair Deirdre O’Farrelly with the bell.

Plaster work began in early June. It will be completed by October 5 — God willing — in time for a long-scheduled wedding.

While the sanctuary is filled with heavy equipment, scaffolding and tarps, services are held in Branson Hall. Completed in 2012, that was the church’s previous big project.

Work continues in the sanctuary.

This is not an easy job. Workers from John Tiedemann Inc. of New Jersey — one of the nation’s top church restoration firms — work 50 feet high, in the hot attic.

The Christ & Holy Trinity space is beautiful. Congregants and clergy have admired and appreciated it for more than a century and a half.

Each star on the ceiling represents a family that donated for repairs after the 1951 fire.

The church shares many resources with the town. They’re doing all they can to keep it beautiful, and safe, for the next 150 years.

Downstairs in Branson Hall, an exhibit by Randy Herbertson includes stars with the names of contributors to the 2019 campaign.

A BIT OF HISTORY: Christ Church was consecrated in 1835, at the northeast corner of Ludlow Road and Post Road West. The original church is depicted on Westport’s town seal.

The building later became the Compo Inn, then the home of the restaurant Tony’s of 52nd Street.

In 1855 New York financier Richard Henry Winslow retired to Westport, and joined Christ Church. He owned the vast Compo Road properties that are now Winslow Park and Baron’s South.

He became a member of the vestry, and in 1859 offered an expensive organ to the church. He wanted to take the organ back,  however, “should certain contingencies arise.”

Some parishioners objected to the newcomer from New York making such demands. They also believed Episcopalians should not enjoy music during worship.

Winslow left the church. So did 50 other members — and the rector. The breakaway parish was organized in 1860. Winslow selected the current downtown site — back then, the Wakeman Inn — for Holy Trinity Church. In colonial times it had been the Disbrow Tavern. George Washington dined there with the Marquis de Lafayette and Count de Rochambeau.

The cornerstone was laid in 1860. Winslow died 5 months later, age 60. A new church replaced the original in 1885.

During World War II — when fuel and gas rationing caused difficulties — Holy Trinity Church asked Christ Church to worship with them. The merger was completed in 1944.

Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church today.

(To donate to the restoration fund, click here. A coloring book about the stained glass windows is available at the church office.)

2 responses to “Repair Work Underway In Downtown Church

  1. Sally Kellogg

    The church of my childhood & I had no idea of the stars in the ceiling representing contributing parishioners. I’m sure my grandfather, Bradley Kellogg, was one of them. My 1971 wedding was the first Wedding to involve the Monsignor from my husband’s Catholic parish. Our Father Kennedy was skeptical.

  2. Denise Torve

    Such wonderful history and details in this article! So much to love about Westport.