Same Church, Different Buildings

As we intentionally build a strong future for our church, it is also important to look back and appreciate where we have been.

Last month I began a monthly series of articles summarizing some of the salient features of First Congregational Church’s history.  My goal is not only to share how our congregation has evolved since our founding, but also to share some interesting tidbits from 100th and 150th anniversary celebrations of our church.

Last month we learned that our church began in Melrose in 1848 as the Melrose Orthodox Congregational Church.  This month, I share from the 1948 account of the various church buildings that have existed on our property.

“Very soon after the Church as formed, a movement was made to build a meeting house.  Land was bought on West Foster Street and the meeting house commenced in October, 1848 and was completed and dedicated on May 17th, 1849.  The land and building cost $3,500.  By 1852, the Church had 24 members.

There is no view of the original church building in existence.  This little, original, white painted church, with its clock and steeple, was enlarged, remodeled and made over into a building of Gothic design during the year 1858 at a cost of $10,000.  The remodeled church was burned February 17, 1869.

Not at all disheartened by this calamity, the society immediately took steps to build another church.  A large lot of land continuing 48,800 square feet adjoining the old church lot was purchased and the cornerstone laid on November 24, 1869.  The church was finished and dedicated on October 26, 1870.

In 1943 the familiar steeple, which had been declared unsafe, was removed and with it the old clock which had registered the time faithfully for so many years.”

On Thanksgiving Eve in 1967, a large fire destroyed the church and adjoining buildings.  After significant self-assessment, members of the church decided to rebuild on the same site (the vote was 139 yes, and 39 no with 1 abstention).  Groundbreaking ceremonies were held for our current church building on Easter Sunday, 1969.

As a side note, our church changed its name from Melrose Orthodox Congregational Church to First Congregational Church in 1918 although I cannot ascertain why this was done.  Perhaps it had something to do with the start of the First World War or maybe an expansion at Highlands Congregational Church (which was founded in 1875).

See you in church,

–Rev. Dominic

1870 the church and parsonage1849 First Meeting House1945 after steeple was removed