The original Newtown Meeting House was built in 1720, where the flagpole stands today, at a cost of 45 pounds sterling. As in most colonial villages, the Meeting House was used for town business during the week, religious services all day Sunday, and prayer meeting one night of the week.
By 1792, a series of local events required that the building be moved and, on July 13, 1792, a body of men raised the building onto logs and, with the aid of horses, rolled the building 132 feet to its present location in the middle of West Street. To the best of our knowledge, this Meeting House is the only one in Connecticut, and possibly all New England, which is sitting in an original colonial site position in the middle of the street.
By 1808, the need for more space prompted the Ecclesiastical Society to plan a new building, 60 ft. by 40 ft. The contract was awarded to Capt. Isaac Skidmore for $1,138.48, which left the Society in debt. Through the levying of a special tax in 1810, part of the debt was retired and the balance was paid off with money raised in 1812 by the sale of "pew grounds". This involved selling the floor space in which a Society member would have his pew constructed at his own expense. The pew became personal property and could be inherited. Many of this building's pews were passed down in the same family until 1874, when all pews were made free.
In the process of new construction, as much material from the old structure as possible was salvaged. A large portion of the beam structure of the present building is from the original Meeting House, and can be seen in the belfry and roof. The belfry houses a 500 pound bell, given by Lt. Nathaniel Briscoe in 1763. Also surviving is Lt. Briscoe's gift of the massive granite steps leading into the building, which were quarried and delivered by slaves in 1767.
The original gilded chanticleer (rooster) weathervane, dating from the Revolutionary period, still stands watch from its lofty perch on top of the steeple. The rooster displays a number of bullet holes which tradition attributes to French soldiers, commanded by General Rochambeau, who marched through Newtown in 1781 and 1782 on their way to and from the battle of Yorktown. Although it is a pleasant bit of local folklore, the holes were almost certainly made by local shooters. The rooster is now the official symbol of Newtown.
Between 1812 and 1873, the building was slowly completed, as funds allowed, and by 1873, looked much as it does today. A stove for heat was added in 1826; the chandelier was installed in 1894; electricity arrived in 1914.