New England Churches Endangered

One only has to follow the trials and tribulations of Old South Church here in Newburyport, MA, to know that the historic structures of our beautiful New England churches could often be in mucho trouble.

And making the rounds of the rumor mill is that First Parish Church in Newbury, the one just over the border on Rt. 1A, is slated for a gut job, in the name of “going green,” in an attempt to stay spiritually alive.

Disclaimer: First Parish Church was my church for over 15 years (I was the Sunday School Superintendent, among other things, good grief!).

Because I still have very good friends at First Parish Church, I thought I would make a few phone calls and find out what the heck is going on.

So I did.

No news to anyone who has been vaguely involved in any New England church. Except for an occasional church here and there, the congregations of churches would be dwindling fast, and the maintenance of these historic buildings cost an amazing amount of money.

The church is not going to be gutted, or “sell all the old materials of the old church to restoration carpenters and rebuild a green smaller church on top of the existing basement” (First Parish Church Newsletter, July 2008).

Desperate enough to contemplate such an idea, but after talking to trusted friends, no, not going to happen.

However, it is this blogger’s opinion that this church, with all its history, needs to go on “Endangered Property” lists everywhere, in Massachusetts and Nationally.

So preservationists out there, if you care about New England icons, such as this gorgeous building, good grief, contact First Parish Church and help them submit the building to be put on the Preservation Massachusetts 10 Most Endangered Resource List, as an example of what would be happening to historic churches everywhere in New England. Much easier to write grants after such a designation could be given.

There are churches all over the place (the French Church on Federal Street readily comes to mind), that have been made into condominiums, and the property that goes along with it, often gets developed (often in sensitive ways, such as the Federal Street Overlay).

If that’s not something you want to see happen to this particularly historic icon, call and offer to help. Historic preservationists this is an SOS.