Built in 1866, AHCC is the only Gothic Congregational Church in Greater Hartford; its general outline follows the structure of 14th and 15th century English churches, with details borrowed from the great English cathedrals. The exterior of the church is sheathed in brownstone from Portland, CT. The church is noted for its outstanding stained glass windows in the main sanctuary and the magnificent pipe organ. The exterior of the church, with the exception of the steeple (added in 1875), remained unchanged for over 100 years, as in 1864, Architect Patrick Keely designed a structure far beyond the needs of the founding congregation.
In 1911-1912, the church was closed for extensive and much-needed repairs, including installing 2 inches of felt on the ceilings to help the acoustics and the separation of the pulpit and lectern. Beautification included the addition of a considerable amount of Gothic wood carving along the walls on the apse, complementing the lines of the new pulpit, lectern, and Communion table. The transformation included the addition of five stained glass windows in the apse, to commemorate the pastorate of Joseph Twichell, AHCC’s first senior minister.
In 1913, it was recommended that a plan to be developed for memorial stained glass windows along the side aisles. The plan was adopted and the last of the windows was installed in the 1920s. In late 2013, a committee was formed to investigate the restoration of the windows and work began on that project in March 2014. Other major renovations of that time included moving the site of the organ pipes to the rear gallery and installing a new Skinner organ console.
In 1940, a second extensive renovation project was undertaken. Along with improvements and additions to the sanctuary, it was decided that a smaller worship space was needed. The remodeling included changing the old chapel into an assembly hall (since named Drew Hall in honor of Rev. Bernard Drew), adding a stage, reconstructing the space on the first floor to offices and classrooms and moving the kitchen. Through the generosity of the Gross Family, the Gross Memorial Chapel was erected to the east of the main sanctuary, thus creating a more intimate worship space and an inviting courtyard between the two buildings.
In 2003, AHCC began a $4.2M building campaign, Dreams to Reality. The campaign was not just about bricks and mortar, it was about the wellness and the health of a vital and historic church community and maintaining the blessing of the facilities so that the church might be a blessing to others. The renovations included extensive brownstone and roof repair, a new organ console, painting of the sanctuary and construction of a multi-level, multi-purpose space for Christian education, music, art and community outreach, a new west entrance, a stairwell and corridor outside the Twichell Room, expansion of the chancel, reclamation of McKeith Hall and creation of a labyrinth, improved sound and lighting in Drew Hall and funds pledged to begin construction of the Boys and Girls Club on Asylum Hill. Today, in addition to Sunday morning worship, the church provides a meeting space for many community organizations, is a concert venue, and a place for dance and creative summer camps, as well as a beautiful, sought-after setting for weddings and other community events.
The stained glass windows installed in the sanctuary were designed by Charles J. Connick, America’s premier stained glass craftsman of the time, according to a “systematic plan.” The first to be installed were the Twichell Windows located above the apse. The central figure is the angel Gabriel and he is surrounded by the authors of the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The aisle windows are designed to present outstanding figures from the Old and the New Testaments. The Old Testament windows are on the west side of the nave, the New Testament windows are on the east side.
The labyrinth is an ancient symbol that combines the imagery of a circle and a spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. The 10 – 15 minutes it takes to walk the labyrinth offers a way to slow down and enter into stillness and reflection amid our highly distracted lives.
Located in McKeith Hall, our labyrinth was designed in 2005 by Robert Ferre (St Louis, MO) as a Chartres-styled seven circuit 24-foot diameter labyrinth.
Directions for walking the labyrinth are available in McKeith Hall. Please call the church office at 860.525.5696 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your visit.