Union Baptist Church, Mystic, CT { 25 images } Created 19 Aug 2014

The Union Baptist Church is landmark in Mystic, CT. It sits on a hill which over looks Mystic and the church is one of the most photographed sites this in this tourist town. But it was not always this way. Before the casinos and the shops Mystic was surrounded by farms and shipyards. While Mystic has changed over the years the Union Baptist Church has changed little, aside from a new steeple courtesy of the 1938 hurricane.

On September 1, 1861 Union Baptist had is first meeting after the congregations of the Second and Third Baptist churches successfully joined together. The Second Baptist Church was small congregation which started in 1765. As the population of the Mystic grew a new church was needed and the Third Baptist Church was formed 1831. By 1861 the congregations saw a need to join together.

According to Charles Stark’s History of Groton, 1705-1905, “teams of oxen dragged the Second Church up High Street a block to the north and placed this building with its spire and clock in front of the Third Church, facing eastward toward the bridge.” The two building were then joined together to create one church.

The combining of the two buildings created a unique space which provides many photographic opportunities. While it is subtle, many of the spaces don’t quite make sense. Walls are curved when they should be straight. Some of the halls are oddly shaped and can remind a viewer of a German expressionist film. Windows can appear oddly placed.

In 2014 Union Baptist is much like other churches which can be found throughout New England. It shows the signs of many weddings, funerals, thanksgiving dinners for those in need, and tag sales name a few. In short it is well cared for, but it could use a new coat of paint.

All of the images for this project were made in the early morning over the course of multiple days. The large windows provided beautiful light which varied in intensity depending on the weather. The wear and tear the church has endured transforms into wonderful textures in the morning light. Pealing paint, cracks, and scuff marks break up otherwise solid white surfaces adding depth. The oddities of the space begin to make sense.

Members of my family have attended and been stewards of Union Baptist Church since the days of the Second Baptist Church. Growing up on High Street, the very street where my great grandfather’s oxen pulled the Second Church to the Third, I formed my most powerful memories of Union Baptist. These memories helped me to place the camera and many of the images in the project are made from lower vantage points. The vantage point of child.

Before this project was started the senior minister of Union Baptist Church challenged the congregation to “see differently”. Through these photographs I attempt to answer her challenge and provide a journey through this building which is part of the foundation of Mystic and my family, both then and now.
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