new haven

Demolition Reveals Old St. Thomas' Episcopal Church Building

The old St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church building in New Haven was built in 1855 and served the congregation until 1939.

NBCUniversal, Inc.

A new sight on the corner of Elm and Orange in downtown New Haven is catching the eye of passersby.

“I never knew it was a church actually. It was always Webster Bank,” said Glenn Formica.

And now with the bank gone, a 160-year-old St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church is in plain view.

“I didn’t even know it was hidden and I worked here for 20-something years,” said Joe Flamini. 

Glenn Formica said he’s always had a partial view of the building from his office, but wasn’t sure what it was.

“I could always see the top of it,” said Formica. “And I always wondered if it was a church or what it was because it had the church-like roof on it.”

It was built in 1855 under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Eben Edwards Beardsley, the first rector of the church.

“We were in that building from 1855 to 1939, and then in 1939 the church relocated here,” said Rev. Keri Aubert, the sixth and first female rector of St. Thomas’ Episcopal.

Aubert told NBC Connecticut that the congregation of the church left the site in 1939, when people began to move out along Whitney Avenue. They’ve been there for 80 years.

“You could see that trend was happening so the church was really responding to the fact that the people were moving to this area where there really wasn’t an Episcopal church presence,” said Aubert.

The old church building has been here too, packed in behind a bank that’s now coming down. For years the roof was the only landmark you could see.

“It was always visible from Orange Street,” said Aubert. “It looked a little funny sticking up there but it was always a reminder that we’d been there.”

Old reminders are inside the church on Whitney Avenue. The lectern and pulpit are from the original building. The church has asked the developers to save anything that looks interesting. Now that the building is exposed, some say the structure itself could be worth saving.

“Even the bones of that church is beautiful,” said Formica.

When asked about the expected demolition, Aubert said you want the past to uphold you but not hold you back. She added that they are really excited to continue serving the church community, and to still be on Whitney Avenue.

“I don’t think we’re being called to move again, but I think we are being called to look around our neighborhood and think about what’s up for us in the next 10 or 20 years,” said Aubert. 

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