Bethlehem Lutheran Church
The Bethlehem Lutheran Church at 1 East High Street in East Hampton, Connecticut was built in 1855-1856 by residents on the north side of town who wanted to separate from the East Hampton Congregational Church.
The members of the ecclesiastical society, living in the vicinity of Lake Pocotopaug, becoming dissatisfied with the location of the meeting house, in 1855 erected an edifice of stucco work, 56 feet in length and 35 feet in width, with a spire 120 feet in height, about three-fourths of a mile north of the old meeting house. It was finished in the summer of 1856, and in September of that year 25 persons who had been dismissed from the First Church for the purpose of organizing a new church, called a council of pastors and delegates from the neighboring churches. They were constituted a Christian church under the name and title of the Union Congregational Church of East Hampton.
The new church flourished during the religious revival of the 1860s, but attendance later declined and the church closed its doors in 1880. In the 1880s, the building was used by various town groups for meetings and entertainments. Around 1890, Swedish immigrants, who had been working at the Portland brownstone quarries, began settling in East Hampton. In 1898 they purchased the former Union Congregational Church, which was rededicated as the Bethlehem Lutheran Church. The church is mentioned in an article entitled “The Town of Chatham,” (Chatham was renamed East Hampton in 1915) that appeared in The Connecticut Magazine, Vol. V, No. 6, June, 1899:
The Lutherans of Swedish descent having become quite numerous in this place have for some time held services in private houses. The service is conducted by Rev. L. P. Ahlquist of Portland, one of the foremost of the Swedish Lutheran ministers in the United States. The Lutheran communicants of East Hampton have recently purchased the edifice which was once used by the Union Congregational Church, at the corner of Main and High Streets, renovated it, and dedicated it as the place of their worship, Sunday, May 14, 1899, with impressive services. These recent comers from the northern part of Europe are like the last preceding mentioned [Irish Catholics], giving the native-born citizens good examples in the neat appearance of their church and its surroundings.
The Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church‘s appearance has been altered over the years. The rear parish hall was built in 1957. The church’s exterior fieldstone walls were refinished in 1978 to resemble sandstone blocks. The original steeple was removed in 1888 and replaced. The current steeple was erected within the last 30 years.