Discover our History
In 1821, after an inspirational visit from the noted Universalist Hosea Ballou, the “First Independent Universalist Society of the City of Hartford” was formed. By 1824, the first meetinghouse was completed in downtown Hartford, across the street from the Old State House.
In 1860 the congregation moved to a larger building on Main Street where the Travelers Tower now stands; in 1906, the church moved to a third location in the residential Asylum Hill area.
Our present building in West Hartford was dedicated in 1931, and a sizable addition was completed in 1962.
Our church transitioned through several name changes over the years. Our current name, “The Universalist Church of West Hartford” was adopted in 1960.
In 1961, our national association, the Universalist Church of America, consolidated with the American Unitarian Association. Since that time our church has been a part of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). Today, our congregation includes a mix of Universalists, Unitarians, agnostics, theists, humanists, atheists and others. We welcome and affirm all people and together we join in a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
Our present church building is a Colonial revival brick design with a prominent portico and steeple. The main building was designed by Connecticut architect Walter P. Crabtree. The large 1962 addition includes church school rooms, a music room, meeting spaces, and a large multi-purpose parish hall with a stage and kitchen.
Our sanctuary seats up to 350 in double rows of pews flanking a center aisle. The magnificent Austin pipe organ was installed in 1963.
Visitors from other Unitarian Universalist churches may be surprised by the stained glass windows which grace our sanctuary and stairways. Depictions of Jesus and his disciples are not a common motif in the churches of our liberal religion, and not all who worship with us may embrace these Christian themes, but the windows are part of our congregation’s history. They were designed in an earlier era, for a former church building, and we treasure them for their beauty and the link to our shared past.
On the west side of the building is a beautiful Memorial Garden dedicated in 1985. On December 5, 1999, we re-dedicated our building after a $1.5 million capital campaign that allowed us to make the facility more accessible.
Among our distinguished former ministers are Rev. Wallace Grant Fiske, Minister Emeritus; Rev. Frederick Lipp, Rev. Stephen Kendrick, Rev. Jean Cook Brown, Minister Emerita, and Rev. Jan Nielsen.