First Congregational Church
circa 1801, 81 East Town Street Norwich, CT
In 1660, the first meetinghouse was built on the southwest corner of the Green. In 1673, a second meetinghouse was erected on top of Meeting House Rocks to serve as a lookout post during King Philip’s War. The third meetinghouse was built on the hill near the previous meeting house and was completed in 1713. The third meetinghouse is where Benedict Arnold was baptized and the Arnold family worshipped. The Arnold family sat near the front of the meeting house, which symbolized their high status in the community, but as their finances declined and Captain Arnold’s alcoholism increased the family had to undergo the public humiliation of being resigned to the gallery for poor people. Hannah Waterman Arnold was cruelly reminded every Sunday of how her family’s fortunes had fallen. Enslaved individuals had a separate space for themselves in the meetinghouse and in the burying ground. Rev. James Fitch was the first minister and Rev. Benjamin Lord was pastor from 1716-1784; his sermons were like a modern newscast.
A fourth meeting house began construction in 1753 and was completed just under the Meeting House Rocks in 1770. However, the building burned down and the present church is the fifth church built and dates back to 1801. President Millard Fillmore’s cousin, Lavius Fillmore, was the architect of the church. The wealthiest members of the church paid for a pew closest to the altar to be closer to God. Brigadier General Ebenezer Huntington laid the cornerstone for the 1801 federal style church. Meeting House Rocks served as a place of worship, a watchtower and a garrison post. Today, members of the First Congregational Church continue to hold outdoor services at Meeting House Rocks.
The Powder House was built in 1760 and located near the path that leads to Meetinghouse Rocks. Muskets, bullets and 3000 lbs of powder were stored here. The Powder House blew up in 1784 and no one was injured.