A Brief History
Established in 1883 as an Episcopal mission in the Black Hall section of Old Lyme, Saint Ann’s founders were Charles Griswold Bartlett and his wife, Annie, who ran a boy’s preparatory school for Yale. They were aided by their ecclesiastical mentor, the Rev. W.B. Buckingham, Archdeacon of what is now the New London Deanery. For several years Mr. Bartlett and students form Berkeley Divinity School performed services in the school for the boys and townspeople. Once a month a priest arrived on horseback to celebrate the Eucharist. One of these priests was the Rev. Theodore M. Peck, who is thought to have been instrumental in the erection in 1892 of a Guild House at the corner of Mile Creek and Bailey Roads where services would now be held.
In 1899, Mr. Thomas J. Falls of New York gave to the Missionary Society a substantial house and 25 acres of land as a memorial to his mother. Mr. Peck moved in, and untill 2011, the building had been used as the rectory. It is believed that Mr. Peck built the adjacent barn with his own hands for the shelter of his horse and carriage and glebe crops.
Shortly after 1900 the Guild House was moved to its present location at the corner of Mile Creek and Shore Roads.
For several years the mission station at Black Hall and others in the area were served by archdeacons, one of whom, the Rev. M. McLean Goldie, upgraded his transportation from a horse and buggy to a 1913 Maxwell automobile. Now with improved transportation and growing missions on his hands Mr. Goldie proposed to his bishop that Saint Ann’s become a self-sustaining parish. Thus, fund raising began in 1917 for a larger church building. In 1923, Bishop Brewster called the Rev. Henry Adams Link to be Vicar of Saint Ann’s Mission. This same year, the Diocese of Connecticut purchased the former Baptist Church on Lyme Street, and the congregation of Saint Ann’s moved in.
During the Depression, Saint Ann’s Mission reached a low point. The size of the congregation dwindled and church leaders considered abandoning the mission. In 1927, the church building was sold to the Roman Catholic Church. (Records of the sale show that the purchase was made for $1.00. Perhaps wisely, no explanation was offered for this price.) Saint Ann’s resumed its worship in the Guild House.
After the war, Bishop Gray and the Rev. Edward Merrill, Rector of Grace Church in Old Saybrook and Archdeacon of Middlesex, turned their attention to strengthening the mission in Old Lyme. They believed that with the opening of the Baldwin Bridge in 1948 and plans for major highway expansion this area of the state would experience growth. Archdeacon Merrill assumed the Saint Ann’s assignment from 1948 through 1949, until the bishop secured the services of Mr. William T. Walker, a student at Berkeley Divinity School, as Lay Vicar. Soon the congregation expanded to 55 families.
In August, 1954, Nigel L. Andrews, formerly a lawyer, now a Berkeley student, came to Saint Ann’s as Lay Vicar. He was ordained Deacon a year later and then Priest. On Trinity Sunday, 1955, he became Saint Ann’s first Rector. Saint Ann’s congregation grew and its programs expanded until the need for more space became urgent. $65,000 was raised in contributions and pledges for a new church and on August 12, 1956, Bishop Gray dedicated the new (present) building. By 1959, Saint Ann’s Mission was a self-supporting Parish. The Guild House began a new life as the Nearly New Shop – a consignment store that provided funds for mission work.
In 1963, the Rev. Charles H. Griswold became the second Rector of Saint Ann’s. That same year, the parish hall was built. In 1984, the Rev. Dr. Kirk S. Smith was called as the third Rector. Under his leadership, Saint Ann’s embarked on another capital fund drive for the purpose of enlarging several areas of the church, and modifying others to better suit the growing church’s needs. In 1992 The Rev, John V. Connelly followed as the fourth Rector, serving for two years. He was succeeded by The Rev. Peter T. Vanderveen who stayed with the congregation for 14 years before moving on. In 2011, the parish called The Rev. Canon Mark K. J. Robinson to be its sixth rector and The Rev. Page Rodgers as Assistant to the Rector for Community and Adult Education.
Our one hundred-plus year history paints a seacoast landscape with an Episcopal presence at the heart of the scene. The Holy Spirit who breathed life into us in Black Hall in 1883 still moves among us and guides us ever onward to new and deeper expressions of God’s love. We hope and pray we will always remember our special heritage.