The Branford Patch readers do not disappoint -- and not only did Betsy Boynton come up with the right answer to the mystery church's identity, but other readers offered several fantastic historical tidbits about their guesses.
Frank Barron wrote:
How about the old Methodist Church that stood on South Main in 1875 and then later became Gaylord's Opera House-might it be that particular church?
Last week's image was not of the old Methodist Church, but what a fantastic history! The church disbanded in 1878, only three years after it was founded. Located at 85 South Main St., the building was purchased by Branford physician Dr. Charles W. Gaylord. He converted the church into the Gaylord Opera House, originally using it as a space for lectures, but later expanding it as a public hall. The space offered entertainment to the public for several years before it was closed in 1896. Dr. Gaylord then converted it into medical offices for his practice. It has since become apartment buildings.
The current Methodist Church in Branford had no continuity from the old church in the 1800s; a Methodist Society was founded in Branford in 1965, and they became officially organized as a congregation the next year. They initially met on the property of the old Oasis restaurant. The current church on East Main St. was built from 1979 to 1981.
Linda Franklin-Biggs wrote:
Perhaps the original church building on 53 Hopson Avenue that burnt down in the late 1800s and was later rebuilt?
Linda's referring to the Swedish Lutheran Church that later moved and became Tabor Lutheran. The congregation was founded in 1888, and the church fire that happened in 1892 did not completely destroy the building -- in fact, the building is currently the home of Church of the Good Shepherd. Tabor Lutheran moved to its current location in 1957.
More information about those and other historic churches in Branford is available at the town of Branford website in an excellent article by David Driessens.
As Betsy recognized, the identity of the mystery photo is Grace Chapel of Branford Point. It stood at 91 Harbor Street and was built in 1880 by Episcopal sexton Isaac Brown, who had served at Grace Episcopal Church of New York City for 35 years. Brown, an annual summer guest to the Branford Point Hotel, wanted to make sure there was a church to serve other summer residents like him. Services were held on Sundays at 4 p.m. Though the chapel came under the official parish leadership of Trinity Episcopal Church, services were conducted by ministers from the churches in Branford Center.
As the resort era dwindled, so did need for the church. Its last service was a baptism in 1919. When the property was sold in 1925, the building was torn down, as was required by the rules of the Episcopal church. A home was built for the Wadstrom family on the church's original foundation.