Tag Archives: Seabury Center

Methodist Church Unearths Its Cornerstone

It’s not the coolest cornerstone in religious history: a Bible, old hymnal, list of members, sermons, a newsletter, a letter from the pastor to future generations; some stones from the Holy Land.

But when United Methodist Church unveils that memorabilia tomorrow — in honor of the 50th anniversary of the original cornerstone laying — congregants will honor much more than those half-century-old relics.

The United Methodist Church on Weston Road.

The congregation on Weston Road has quite a history. In fact, the church predates the founding of Westport by almost as long as the date it celebrates tomorrow.

Its roots here go back to 1790. Jesse Lee — a Methodist from Virginia — rode his horse all around the area, inviting people to gather in homes for fellowship. Churches in Easton and Ridgefield are now named for him.

The first church was built on Poplar Plains. It’s near the site of the longtime Three Bears restaurant. Today it’s once more a home of worship — for Chabad.

In the 1850s the Methodists moved to the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Main Street. There’s a law office now, at the tip of what was then a much larger town green.

A new church was built on (appropriately) Church Lane in 1908. In 1966 — to help pay for the move to Weston Road — that building was sold to the church next door, Christ & Holy Trinity. The Episcopalians still own it; it’s been rechristened Seabury Center.

The one-time Methodist Church on church Lane is now the Seabury Center.

Other funds for the new church were secured by congregation families taking out 2nd mortgages on their homes.

The 5-acre Weston Road site was adjacent to the home of Robert Lawson, author of the children’s book “Rabbit Hill.” During construction, services were held at Coleytown Elementary School. The cornerstone-laying ceremony was held on June 27, 1967.

But for many years, this was not the only Methodist congregation in town. A building in Saugatuck was constructed in 1854, near where I-95 exit 17 is now. That congregation merged with the one on Church Lane in 1947. The Saugatuck building became an artists’ studio, before it was demolished in 1955 for the thruway.

The Saugatuck bell lives on, though. It was bought by John Sherwood, who set it in the grassy area in front of the Greens Farms train station.

Rev. Edward Horne

It sat there for decades. A few years ago Sherwood’s descendants gave it to the United Methodist Church. It’s now in the memorial garden, just outside Reverend Ed Horne’s office.

A 2nd bell on Weston Road came from the old Church Lane building.

Rev. Horne is surrounded by — and thinks about — all that history, as he prepares for tomorrow’s cornerstone unveiling.

(It’s actually a re-enactment. The tin box was uncovered and opened a couple of days ago. Church officials wanted to avoid a Geraldo Rivera/Al Capone’s vault moment.)

The celebration — at the end of the 9:30 a.m. worship service — will include excerpts for the original service. In attendance will be a few congregants who were there at the groundbreaking 50 years ago. Former fire chief Harry Audley and his wife Pat are still active church members. Longtime teacher Pat Farmer and her husband Haynes — both near 90 — still sing in the choir. Gay and Liz Land plan to be there too.

The 1966-67 Methodist Church building committee (from left): Harold Shippey Jr., O. Glen Simpson, Paul Gann, Liz Land, John Kronseder, Curtis Cortelyou, Bob Doty, Bill Hale, Gay Land, Chandler Moffat, Joe Kyle, Arnold Miller, Phyllis Bowlin, Dale Bowlin, Herb Mahn, Faye Busch.

The Methodist Church’s 50th celebration continues in September, with a dinner and visit from the bishop. Also on tap: a day of service in honor of the anniversary, and — next May — a commemoration of the 1st service in the new church.

Tomorrow’s unveiling ends with the installation of a new box of memorabilia in the cornerstone. It will contain a contemporary worship book; letters from young congregants, and a church DVD produced by Dan Gelman.

It will be opened again in 2067 …

… the good Lord willing.

United Methodist Church, ready for worship in 1967.

Wired!

Yesterday, “06880” posted Jennifer Johnson’s gorgeous photo of Bedford Square.

Sitting outside SoNo bakery, an alert “06880” reader noticed how lovely Seabury Center — across from the new construction — looked in the afternoon light.

She snapped this photo:

seabury-center

Gazing down Church Lane toward Christ & Holy Trinity Church, she shot another:

christ-holy-trinity-church

But as she peered closer, she saw what she believes is a new utility pole.

Suddenly, she wondered: Will this lovely scene soon become a jumble of overhead power and cable lines?

She looked back toward Elm Street, and saw this cluttered mess:

elm-street

Last summer, she thought that all the work on Church Lane meant that utility wires would be buried underground.

Now she’s unsure.

And very, very worried.

Randy Herbertson’s Very Local Visual Brand

Randy Herbertson is a Midwesterner. His wife grew up in California — where she had no idea that ancestors named Barlow and Hurlbutt had roots in this area dating back centuries.

In 1997 Herbertson — a talented, creative marketing executive — was transferred east by Conde Nast. He lived in Westport and commuted to New York, where for many years he owned a branding agency.

In 2013 he had a revelation. “Am I stupid?” he asked himself. “Why can’t I work in Westport too?” (His wife — the lead designer at Terrain — already did.)

Randy Herbertson

Randy Herbertson

He and his business partner, fellow Westporter Geoff Shafer, opened their multimidia design and promotion firm, The Visual Brand, downtown. In the 2 years since, Herbertson — who makes his living observing consumers’ behavior — has saved hours of commuting time each day.

He knew that would happen. What he did not expect was that he’d become part of a flourising, fun downtown community.

Operating out of reclaimed space on Church Lane — a building behind SoNo Baking Company — Herbertson and Shafer have found plenty of local clients. They hang out in cool places.

Herbertson has joined local business organizations. He’s hired Connecticut designers. “I’d never even heard of Western Connecticut State University,” he admits. “But they’ve got a great program, with really good people.”

Herbertson and Shafer found other businesses founded by former New Yorkers. Neat coffee and cocktails and Luxe Wine Bar are two. Westport Wash & Wax and Quality Towing are 2 more. Not everyone aspires to work in New York forever,” Herbertson says.

The Visual Brand office: inside and out.

The Visual Brand office: inside and out.

From his office — the mail sorting room of the very first Westport post office — Herbertson watches Bedford Square rise.

“It’s a bit of a pain,” he says of the construction. “But it’s exciting. It will be very good overall.”

His marketing eye has been caught by Anthropologie, which will do “some very cool stuff” with their repurposed space.

But, he says, “it’s important to keep the local element downtown — not just the big corporations.” He cites SoNo Baking as “very focused on what this community needs.”

His vision is stirred by the possibilities across the street. A choir member of Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Herbertson would love to find an investor, buy the adjacent Seabury Center, and turn it into a performing arts center like the Ridgefield Playhouse.

“I’m really bullish on downtown,” he notes. “We have an opportunity to be really creative. My son lives in West Hartford. They’ve done some pretty cool stuff up there, in an area that used to be not so good. I hope we can do it better.”

This photo on the very intriguing home page of The Visual Brand's website was taken just a couple of miles from the firm's office.

This photo on the very intriguing home page of The Visual Brand’s website was taken just a couple of miles from the firm’s office.

After 2 years, Herbertson says, he’s found “no downsides” to working in Westport. (He still has clients in the city. They’re just a train ride away.)

“It’s completely possible to do everything we did in New York — at a fraction of the cost.”

Plus, there are all those wine bars, coffee shops — and maybe even a performing arts space — just steps away.