History of the Worthington Meeting House
The Worthington Meeting House was built in 1774 as the meeting house of the Worthington Ecclesiastical Society, created when the Congregational Church in town split east and west in a dispute arbitrated by Colonel Worthington. Timbers from the 1738 meeting house were divided to build the two meeting houses. In 1790 a steeple was added to the north side. The Worthington Meeting House served as a church until 1850 when a new church was built farther down the road. Since the church played a large part in the government of the entire community at that time, the meeting houses also served as town halls with the location of town meetings rotating between Worthington, Kensington and New Britain parishes. The meeting houses were community centers where people also gathered for celebrations and harvest fairs.
In addition, the Worthington Meeting House was the site of the first Berlin Library, the small collection of books being kept behind the pulpit. After the church and library found new homes, the Town of Berlin continued to use the building, and during this era it became known as Worthington Town Hall. In 1907, the town purchased Brandegee Hall and moved town offices into that building. At that time, after extensive redesign, the building reopened as Worthington School. It operated as a four-room school until 1957 when the town closed it and reused the building as offices for the Board of Education.
Town offices were consolidated in 1974 and since then, the building has undergone two major stabilization projects funded by donations, state grants and town bonding as it awaits its next use.
Over generations, this town-owned building continued to be adaptively reused because townspeople valued its history. The structure exemplifies New England architecture and reminds us of the hard working, thrifty Yankee farmers who sawed, hoisted and re-pegged the massive hand-hewn chestnut beams into place. The attic truss work is a marvel of angles, and the names of former students who climbed up there to leave their mark are still visible.
Meeting houses of this age are now rare. No other Connecticut town has two surviving 18th-century meeting houses. While Kensington remained a church, Worthington has a more diverse story to tell. The exterior will resemble the 1774 meeting house, and the interior will evoke that period. The familiar cupola will be restored and serve as a focal point on the lawn. A video-cam will allow visitors to view the elaborate attic truss work and student graffiti. A section of wall will expose the charred beam from the 1848 fire that might have destroyed the building but for the quick action of a citizen bucket brigade. Numerous artifacts and photos from Worthington School will be displayed. The building is uniquely suited to showcase the history of our town.