For more than a century the current meetinghouse stood on its own, with only some outbuildings nearby. Occasionally a tent was erected to accommodate a large gathering for chowder served from the small kitchen in the basement. In the mid-twentieth century the church was growing and a Parish House was added along the east side, including the current food pantry storage room, coat closet and some classrooms. For those who do not remember, the current food pantry room was formerly the church office and the coat room was formerly the minister’s office!
By 1969 the church buildings were again bursting at the seams trying to accommodate our growing membership. The congregation was exploring fundraising for a proposed Christian Education and Fellowship building. Sunday School classes were held “in four different buildings, with crowded conditions in many areas and hazardous conditions in others.” These included what is now the Food Pantry building and even the nearby Grange (since moved up the street). It was reported that year that the highest attendance was 223, “although 274 different children have attended at least one Sunday.” It was clear that larger facilities were needed. Although Sunday School attendance slowly declined from that high, it was still impressive for several years.
The “Program of Progress” committee got to work and by the January 1970 annual meeting had gathered pledges of $62,790 (more than $12,000 in hand). An architect had been paid and permits were filed. Contractor Gilbert and Roy, Inc., began construction. More donations came in and the committee obtained a construction loan through the UCC. About 200 people gathered Sunday, March 21, 1971 to dedicate Fellowship Hall. There was more work to be done, however. Over the course of the next five years, rest rooms and the kitchen were added, and by January 1977 it was reported that the Women’s Fellowship was cooking and serving in Fellowship Hall on a regular basis. Sunday School and the Nursery School made use of the hall, as well as many community organizations. Original plans provided for future expansion, but that has not been done.
Cyril H. Anderson, better known as “Cy,” was a constant fixture in Fellowship Hall, serving on the Building Committee and keeping track of the building and its hidden details throughout the years. He led weekly work parties for the entire church, but was on site much more of the time repairing this and that. Quiet by nature, he nevertheless had many leadership roles, chairing the Standing committee, co-chairing the 250th anniversary committee, as well as mowing, shoveling, taking out trash, teaching Sunday School, giving English lessons to refugees, serving on Trustees and many more duties he saw a need for. We were not the only beneficiaries of his devotion – he was a tireless worker for the Ledyard Fair and other organizations around town. In the late 1990s, Cy’s contributions were recognized by the re-naming of Fellowship Hall as “The Cy Anderson Fellowship Hall.”
A second major project in about 1989-90 connected Fellowship Hall to the main building, eliminating a dangerous “cut-through” driveway. This connecting building housed greatly-improved office spaces, a foyer, library, upstairs music room, and a multi-purpose room (originally used by Christian Education and by Ledyard Center Nursery School). Named in honor of two sisters whose generous donations partly funded its construction, this building is known as the Crawford Wing. Also as part of this project, the original plain and boxy Fellowship Hall portion was given a new facade that connected it visually with the rest of the building.
As Fellowship Hall began to show its age, the congregation decided to refurbish it in 2015 as part of a larger “Rise and Shine” program. The kitchen was enlarged and reworked, new restrooms were installed, storage was re-organized and the main hall was renewed. A re-dedication of Cy Anderson Fellowship Hall in 2017 was a celebration of all the work and generosity that went into the project. The newly improved kitchen was fittingly dedicated as “The Jane Bliven Kitchen,” in honor of a hard-working member who is a constant contributor of her fine cooking to our church dinners and coffee hours.