It’s easy to let your mind drift back in time and imagine a horse drawn carriage pulling up to the front of the historic East Village Meetinghouse, carrying a bride to meet her groom. But on Saturday, the bride was chauffeured in a stretch Hummer, something a bride from 1811 would probably find hard to comprehend.
Jennifer Longo and Paul Licio, both of Derby, exchanged their wedding vows in the small building located at the intersection of East Village Road and Barn Hill Road, before roughly 40 of their family members and friends. Licio serves on the Monroe Historical Society’s Board. “(The Monroe Historical Society) would like to get the word out that they allow access for weddings and funerals,” Licio said. “I thought it was pretty neat because it’s 200 years old this year.”
“It’s warm and homey and personal,” added Longo, “That’s what I liked about it.”
Longo’s grandmother, Dolores Longo of Southington, officiated the wedding service. “It’s awesome! It is fantastic! How wonderful that we have places that we preserve like this,” Dolores Longo said. “It keeps the community together.”
Nancy Zorena, president of the Monroe Historical Society, is pleased to see this special building being utilized. “It is certainly small and intimate. It has wonderful acoustics,” Zorena said, “The architecture is late 18th and 19th century. It has a curved ceiling and palladium windows. It’s comfortable.”
“It’s light and airy!” added Karen Cardi, the current program director and future president of the Monroe Historical Society.
Cardi explained the benefit of renting the space for weddings and other functions. “It’s a financial help. We have many expenses,” Cardi said. “It spreads the word about the historical society too.”
The East Village Meetinghouse is the oldest Methodist church building in Connecticut. Monroe Congregational Church is the oldest church in Monroe, but its original meetinghouse no longer exists. All Protestant buildings of worship were known by the name “meetinghouse.” Only Catholic and Episcopal structures were known as churches.
The East Village Meetinghouse was donated by the Methodist Conference to the Monroe Historical Society in 1974. In the early 1790’s, Jesse Lee, a Methodist, introduced his religious beliefs to the hills of New Stratford, now Monroe. He first preached in the East Village-Barn Hill Schoolhouse.
That one room school house building was later moved to Wheeler Road where it is currently used for Monroe Historical Society Programs. In 1811, a local farmer, businessman and Methodist convert, John Wilcoxson, donated the land to the Methodists for a house of public worship and the current East Village Meetinghouse was built.
The meetinghouse is available to use for weddings, funerals and other functions. It can accommodate up to 75 guests. It is notable that the building does not have plumbing. In keeping with its historical charm, guests needing restroom facilities must use an adjacent outhouse. Prices start at $275. For information about the meetinghouse, visit monroehistoricsociety.org. The website also has information on the many programs held by the Monroe Historical Society, including an upcoming summer program for children.