The buildings of Christ Church Greenwich are intimately tied to the history of the town and New England and indirectly to other noteworthy sites, as well as to one of the country’s most important architects.
On display in Christ Church is a panel from one of the doors to the Horseneck Chapel, the first building to house the congregation of what is now Christ Church Greenwich. The land for the chapel, which was completed in 1749, was donated by Israel Knapp. Knapp’s tavern (now called Putnam Cottage) where George Washington once lunched and from which General Putnam escaped the redcoats pursuing him, stands directly across East Putnam Avenue from the current church campus. Knapp’s descendant, William, and his son, William B., are both buried in the Christ Church cemetery. William donated to Christ Church a large tract of land that included the site of the second church, just north of the location of the Horseneck Chapel. The two subsequent church buildings, including the present one, were built on William’s donated land.
Christ Church remains an active record in stone, bronze and glass of the history of the town of Greenwich; among the church’s stained glass windows are two given in memory of former Christ Church choirboys, sons of families of the town, killed in World War II—Joseph John Kajack, a soldier, and airman Richard Chalmers Finn.
West of the church building stands the Tomes-Higgins house, built in 1861 for Francis Tomes, an English hardware importer. In the style of the French Second Empire, it is believed to be the only remaining house in Connecticut designed by Calvert Vaux, architect of the original buildings of the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art who with Frederick Law Olmstead designed many of the most important parks in America. Two facades of Vaux’s Met building have been uncovered and restored. Because many Vaux buildings have not survived, the historic value of the Tomes-Higgins House has long been recognized. The house was completely renovated by Christ Church in 1999.
The current Christ Church building, of local gray stone, was consecrated in 1910. The architect was William Francis Dominick, a nephew of Christ Church warden George F. Dominick Sr. William Dominick was also the architect of a number of estates and homes in New York City and Long Island, including 7 Sutton Place in the heart of Manhattan. However he was best known for his work in and around Greenwich. The English, German and American stained glass windows in the current Church include two Tiffany windows from the 1857 church building that Dominick incorporated in his 1910 design. The attached parish house and the rectory, (which is now known as the annex), were completed and dedicated in 1911.
The graves from the original Horseneck Chapel burial ground were moved to the present Christ Church cemetery situated to the east of the Church, and the headstones and monuments bear further witness to the long history of the church and its relationship to the town of Greenwich. If you walk through the cemetery, you will find the graves of the Knapps and of revolutionary and civil war soldiers. Many stones bear the names of some of the most illustrious families in the area, together with many of the townsfolk who chose this beautiful and historic site as their final resting place.