The simple white chapel of Talmadge Hill Community Church (THCC) is located in sylvan woodland at the intersection of Talmadge Hill Road and Hollow Tree Ridge Road, between the towns of Darien and New Canaan in Connecticut. It has been an active place of worship more or less continuously since it opened its doors in September 1870.
The chapel at Talmadge Hill was built by neighbors, out of timbers cut locally from a familiar design for churches of the era. It is a starkly lovely design, reflecting the late gothic revival architectural style. The foundation is of local stone and it has a gable roof, clapboard siding and cedar shingle roof. Behind a small entrance vestibule the 41’ x 24’ chapel interior has simple wooden pews with the capacity to seat 100 people. The floors are foot-wide, old pine boards. Tall gothic arched windows look out upon a small contemplative garden. A community room of some 17’ x 36’ was added to provide for Sunday school and fellowship hour after services. Every part of the church’s construction represents the joint efforts and aspirations of neighbors who desired a place for worship and the spiritual and moral education of children from 1870 to the present day.
The Need of Neighbors
The chapel was built on property given by Mr. Minot Kellogg who lived in the third house north of Jelliff Mill Road on Old Stamford Road.
In the 1860s, religious activity in the area was largely confined to services held at private homes and at the schoolhouse. However the railroad from New Canaan to Stamford, completed in 1868, raised great hopes for the neighborhood and lead to a great deal of renaming of local landmarks. The Talmadge Hill Station was nearly named “Smith Station” for the numerous Smith families living close by, but because William Talmadge had given a considerable amount of land for the project the stop was named for him. Talmadge Hill Road was known originally as Flat Ridge Hill Road and Talmadge Hill Road was what is now known as Old Stamford Road, which leads up under the railroad bridge enroute to New Canaan. And although first called the Flat Ridge Hill Chapel, the church later took the name of Talmadge Hill Chapel.
As attendance at worship began to increase, the need was felt to provide a regular place of worship.
Consequently, in 1870 Minot Kellogg, gave a small plot of land for the building site. The church was begun and completed in the fall of 1870 in a concerted community effort by the residents of the Flat Hill Ridge area with both financial and moral support being given by other Darien and New Canaan citizens. Neighbors contributed funds, their strong arms, timber from the adjoining woods, and even a team of oxen.
Those who were instrumental in establishing the Flat Hill Ridge Chapel include many families involved in the growth of Darien and New Canaan, and for whom many local streets and landmarks are named. In addition to Mr. Kellogg, others include Mr. and Mrs. Noah Weed, Mr. and Mrs. Thaddeus Hoyt and family, Mrs. Laura Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Buxton (Burtus?) Mrs. Martha Whitney, Mr. and Mrs. John W. Nichols, Mr. and Mrs. Justus Mead, Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Merrill, Mr. and Mrs. I. N. Waterbury, Miss Mary Talmadge, Mr. and Mrs. Warren Samis, Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Jelliff, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Davenport, and Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Selleck and family.
From its founding in 1870, the chapel known as the “Flat Ridge Hill Union Christian Society” was the center of the social life of the community. Since there were few if any automobiles in the county before 1920, there was little opportunity to move about freely. Occasional day trips to visit relatives were made by horse and buggy or a very occasional trip by train for a vacation with relatives at a distance.