Early Church History
In the autumn of 1853, the distinguished and respected Reverend Nathanial Hewit, D.D. along with 81 parishioners formed an Ecclesiastical Society and held their first service in the Public School House on State Street, between Broad and Lafayette Streets, in Bridgeport, CT. It was October 9, 1853. By month's end the group would seek out a denominational affiliation and be formerly received by the New York Presbytery. With a unanimous vote, the Presbytery installed Reverend Nathaniel Hewit as the first pastor of what is today known as the First Presbyterian Church of Fairfield.
For the next few months the group continued to worship in the schoolhouse while a chapel was being built and on January 22, 1854 the congregation met for the first time in this new chapel. To accommodate needs for the Sunday School, Prayer Meetings, The Ladies' Society, and social gatherings, the cornerstone of a church building was laid in that same year on the same plot of land. It was finished the following year and dedicated August 8, 1855. The building was of considerable size with large galleries that were 'handsomely and completely furnished.' The church spire rose some 220 feet in the air making it the tallest church spire in Bridgeport at that time.
Dr. Hewitt was held in high esteem by his parishioners. In 1858, at the age of 70, Dr. Hewit tendered his resignation due to his declining health. The congregation strongly opposed his resignation because they were 'warmly attached to him and thoroughly content with his services.' Dr. Hewit withdrew his resignation and continued as pastor for another four years with the assistance of a coadjutor.
In June 1862, Reverend Horace Hinsdale was invited to a brief temporary occupancy of Dr. Hewit's pulpit and a short time later was given a cordial invitation to become pastor. Reverend Horace G. Hinsdale D.D. was installed as second pastor of the First Presbyterian Church October 28, 1862 and served the church for fifteen years.
In 1874, the original chapel was torn down and a larger, two-storied chapel was built. Considerable money--donated by church member Captain John Brooks--was spent on a larger organ and various improvements to the interior of the church. Just as these improvements were completed and while the organ was being tuned in preparation for the opening services to be held the following Sabbath, on the evening of December 9, 1874 the new church was discovered in flames.
The fire seemed to start in, or near, the rear of the organ and spread quickly through the newly built church as well as the original church building. The flames rose faster than water could be retrieved. Both buildings burned in an incredibly short period of time. The church and chapel with their contents were totally destroyed while the people looked on hopelessly. The fire was so intense and so big that it was seen as far away as New Haven and Port Jefferson.
The loss was enormous but the little church with its 112 members endured hardship with courage. The same evening of the fire, steps were taken to provide a place of worship for the coming Sabbath. Just as it had done 20 years earlier, the congregation met each week in temporary quarters for worship. The Sabbath Services and the Sunday school suffered no interruption.
It was decided to sell the site of the church. The new church was to be built on the South East corner of State Street and Myrtle Avenue. The first service of worship was held on May 28, 1875 and the cornerstone was laid on June17th. A formal dedication took place on October 12, 1875.
The church would remain at the corner of State and Myrtle for the next 90 years. During this period many changes took place, among them, the leadership of the church.
- Rev. Nathaniel Hewit, D.D. 1853-1862
- Rev. Horace G. Hindsdale, D.D. 1862-1877
- Rev. Henry Adolphus Davenport, D.D. 1878-1907
- Rev. John MacLaren Richardson, D.D. 1909-1917
- Rev. Alexander Alison, Jr., D.D. 1917-1948
- Rev. Ralph W. Key, ThD. 1948-1958
- Rev. Frederick Allsup 1959-1981
- Rev. Douglas Rumford 1982-1988
- Rev. Louis S. Lunardini, D.D. 1989-2001
- Rev. Edward F. Duffy, Ph.D 2003-2018
- Rev. Gregory T. Penza 2020-present
The Move From Bridgeport
In 1959, the State of Connecticut had indicated its intention to purchase the church building as part of its land acquisition for construction of Route 25 through Bridgeport. Accordingly, a Relocation Committee was formed by the Session to represent the Church in all matters relevant to the proposed relocation of the church. On September 15, 1963, ground was broken for the new church in a cabbage patch at Easton Estates in Fairfield. The first pouring of concrete occurred October 10th.
On March 14, 1965, there was a five-mile 'walk' by sixty-three parishioners from the last service in the State Street church to the first service in the new location on Easton Turnpike. Youth of the church, clergy, and members of the ecumenical community of Bridgeport and Fairfield took part in the walk. Several churches along the parade route presented gifts to the Church in the name of God. Many of those are present in the church building today. The following Sunday, March 21st, the first complete service of worship took place in the new church.
The church was dedicated on June 27th. The cornerstone was laid and numerous memorabilia were placed within. A list of the contents may be accessed through the church office.
The Church Today
For over 150 years, God has bestowed upon this church a bounty of blessings including a rich and strong heritage, exceptional spiritual leadership, a united and growing congregation and a new church building. We believe that God has a plan for our Church and it is our fervent hope that our faith will continue to strengthen us and that we may share our blessings with all those who seek the Truth.