Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Was this the first church to be built in town?

Was this the first church to be built in town?

By looking carefully at the architecture we discover many details which suggest it is a Greek Revival Church. Greek Revival architecture was popular in Vermont in the 1830s and 1840s. Chesterfield, NH, was established in 1735.

In addition to dating a church by its architectural details, we can use old maps.
This 1784 map shows a church near Spafford Lake:

This Google map shows the starred location of our church:

While this church might be the oldest church currently standing in town, it isn't the first church built in Chesterfield. The first churches to be built in Vermont and New Hampshire were Meetinghouses. The architecture of these first meeting houses is descended from the Puritan belief that the church wasn't a building, but a covenant of the people.  Their "church service" was a meeting.  The Rockingham Meetinghouse is the only example still standing in Vermont of this early architecture.

Here you see the main entrance on the long side of the building rather than on the gable end like the Greek Revival Chesterfield church. The pulpit is located opposite the entrance --there is no ceremonial alley to the pulpit like in later churches.

Even this might not be what Chesterfield's first church looked like. By reading the town records--a 3rd piece of evidence--we might discover that the settlers actually first "met" in someone's home or in a log structure.

Researching this important piece of architecture leads us back to shadows on our landscape--the earliest days of settlement and the priorities of the proprietors and leaders of our towns. 

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