Roadside History: Center Meeting House

August 11. 2017 7:30PM
The Center Meeting House in Newbury (centermeetinghouse.org)

New Hampshire historical marker number: 81.

Date established: 1971 in Newbury.

Location: In front of the meeting house on Route 103, near the intersection with Route 103A.

What the sign says: "This edifice of Bulfinch design was rebuilt here about 1832 with old timbers from the Meeting House on Bly Hill. Its age, name and denomination remain uncertain. The building has become known as a museum piece of the 1820 decade. Its beautiful high colonial pulpit, with pews facing the vestibule, renders it unique among New Hampshire churches."

The back story: The Center Meeting House is one of the last country meeting houses built in the pure Federal style, and one of the few to survive intact to this day.

It replaced a meeting house built in 1791 that had been located about a mile away. The Center Meeting House is distinctive because of its reversed pulpit, with the congregation facing the entrance doors and the pulpit in front.

Originally designed to be used by multiple religious denominations, the building is now operated by a local nonprofit organization as a community center.

The transition began in 2005 when the Center Meeting House organization's efforts to restore the decaying building got underway. The work was completed in 2011, and the building was rededicated that year.

Now the organization is focused on maintaining and preserving the Center Meeting House and encouraging its continued use.

The building is a showcase of the town's history and serves as a venue for a variety of townwide events as well as family, cultural and civic gatherings.

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Sources: State of New Hampshire, the Center Meeting House organization and Wikipedia.


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