Photo courtesy of Tripper Stiles and TLS     Visualsl.stiles@nebcvt.org


The Old First Church was gathered on December 3, 1762

The Old First Church was gathered on December 3, 1762, the first Protestant congregation in the New Hampshire Grants. The organizers were Separatists, influenced by the Great Awakening, from Connecticut and Western Massachusetts, and were proprietors of the new finding land and opportunity in the new town of Bennington. The first meetinghouse was a plain pine structure built in the center of the village, the green in front of the present structure, and served for general public meetings, as a school, and for worship.

The present sanctuary, completed in 1805, is the first church built in Vermont that reflects the separation of church and state. That is, the state would have no role in the maintenance of the church’s building or ministry; and the church would be free to support and direct its own work. The townspeople hired the noted church architect, Lavius Fillmore, as builder. Fillmore had earlier built churches in Connecticut (e.g., East Haddam Congregational Church, 1791) and would go on to build in Middlebury, Vermont.

The columns are hand-planed from the whole trunk of pine trees and extend from the basement footers to the rafters. Notice in the ceiling the cross embracing the world. The exterior corner decorations are wood blocks, meant to resemble the stone of European churches. The cost of the building was $7,793.20, raised almost completely from the sale of the first floor pews. The upper pews were called the Free Gallery, and provided seating for visitors and young people.

The box pews and the high pulpit were restored in 1937. The pew and wall plaques honor Vermonters who contributed significantly to society (not necessarily church members), including Robert Frost who spoke at the rededication (and whose gravesite is just down the hill).

In 1994-99, the congregation undertook major building renovations, from the basement beams to the bell tower, from the marble steps to the roof; and the interior was plastered, and painted in the present historical white and grey.

In 1998 the Barn was refurbished for church and community use.

Today the church is again facing the need for significant structural and restoration work to keep the building in pristine condition.

For more on our church history see below: