Most Endangered Listing Update: 
First Parish Meetinghouse, Plymouth
Status: Progressing

First Parish Meetinghouse, Plymouth
Most Endangered Listing 2014
Though the impressive Romanesque Revival structure at the foot of Burial Hill dates from 1899, the Church's beginnings go back to 1606 in Scrooby, England.  It sits on the same site as four previous pilgrim meetinghouses (1683, 1744, and 1831) and the parish and building has served the religious, spiritual, cultural and other needs of Plymouth and beyond.   It was designed by famed architects Hartwell and Richardson of Boston and its Arts and Crafts interior features hand carved symbols reflective of the Pilgrim's values.  The windows are considered irreplaceable and many were designed by Edward Peck Sperry of Tiffany Studios. They depict significant events in the Pilgrim epic, including The Singing of the Compact, which is signed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. 

The First Parish Meetinghouse was designated a Most Endangered Listing in 2014 by Preservation Massachusetts due to its dire need of restoration. 
An assessment report found the mortar of the exterior granite was weakened, allowing moisture in and destabilizing interior walls, causing plaster to fall almost daily. Though the stained glass windows were removed for a complete restoration, they cannot be returned until work on the church's failing façade is completed.

First Parish symbolizes the birth of religious freedom in America and celebrates the values courage and experiences of the Pilgrims who followed their faith across the sea to create a new world. Their story, a quintessential American narrative that continues to inspire people throughout the world, is uniquely preserved through First Parish's architecture, Tiffany stained glass windows and Arts and Crafts interior. No other church in America preserves this epic story for future generations as does First Parish, looking out upon Plymouth Harbor and the rock upon which the settlers first stepped. 

Preservation Massachusetts feels that it is important that this national landmark be made to endure for generations more, as a tangible link to the people and ideals that founded this country.
 
D onna Petrangelo of the  Friends of the First Parish Meetinghouse  shares with us the successes and challenges that lie ahead for this endangered landmark.


2014 Most Endangered
Campaign Sign
"Since being named one of  Massachusetts Most E ndangered Resources in 2014 ,
our   efforts to save Plymouth's First Parish Meetinghouse have continued to progress, and we have taken some important steps. However, locating significant sources of funding continues to prove extremely difficult due to the lack of federal and state money for historic preservation. In addition, many private foundations will not award grants to religious institutions, regardless of their historical importance. We have a long way to go-more than $1.5 million for restoration work.

In December 2014 we celebrated when our 1899 Meetinghouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We also hired  Partners for Sacred Places to conduct a second feasibility study

 
In 2015 we contracted with S pencer and Vogt Architects and hope to restore First Parish's east- facing façade and bell tower within the next year.

Illustrated Guide To First Parish Meetinghouse

In 2016 we formed Friends of First Parish Meetinghouse, a non-profit 501c3 that is not connected to the church, and we are in the process of submitting an application to the Community Preservation Commission (CPC). 

In 2012 a grant from the CPC allowed us to totally restore the Meetinghouse's beautiful stained glass windows.

In addition, we hope to reach new audiences through our recently published illustrated guide to First Parish, our Facebook page and our website, and our in-progress attempt at crowd sourcing.



Exterior work of First Parish Meetinghouse
As we continue to submit grant applications, our Most Endangered listing provides legitimacy and gravitas to our quest! In addition, since our initial listing we have reached out to PM on quite a few occasions and have, in return, always received valuable suggestions and encouragement.

We have learned not to be afraid to ask for advice. Both our restoration committee and Friends consist of a small group of dedicated volunteers. We are not professional fund raisers or social media experts, so advice from those with experience in these areas has meant a great deal.  While continuing to network, we also are trying to reach new audiences. Embracing social media certainly continues to prove challenging.


Future Restoration Work
We also have learned to try to investigate all options. Following our initial structural survey in 2010, we focused on raising the funds needed to restore the entire granite façade-a daunting task. After investigating how other churches approached their restoration campaigns and then attending a PM workshop in Worcester where Lynn Spencer of Spencer and Vogt Architects spoke, we started thinking about breaking our façade restoration into phases.  While the disadvantage of this approach is that scaffolding has to be put up more than once (an expensive proposition), we felt that demonstrating to the public in a tangible way that we were making progress could outweigh this negative.

 
Tours at the First Parish Meetinghouse
Sadly, there is no silver bullet, and success often seems totally out of reach, but don't give up.  Continue employing and adding to your repertoire of fund-raising tools, and keep a time line record of your important steps and successes. Keeping a list of unfinished tasks or possible future plans is also helpful.   





With the upcoming 400th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims fast approaching, we are hoping that First Parish's important role in Plymouth history may lead to some much-needed funding, but time will tell."




Support the Friends of First Parish by visiting their social media outlets!

Like them on Facebook at:  

Follow them on Twitter at:

Follow them on Pinterest at:  
 
Visit their website:  
 
Tours are offered year round with scheduled tour days every Friday and Saturday (10:00 am - 3:00 pm) from the 1st weekend in June through the end of October.


Facing Plymouth Harbor, the sanctuary's three front windows, John Robinson Blessing the Pilgrims on Their Departure from Delftshaven, depicts the Separatists' minister blessing the those Separatists who kneel on board the Speedwell prior to their departure from Holland.

These windows can not be re-installed until restoration of the front facade of Meetinghouse is complete.

Stained glass windows being taken out of the building for restoration in 2013.

Rare depiction of Native American in stained glass - even more rare to having it in a church. As seen on bottom right corner of window - this artwork was designed by Edward Peck Sperry.

Are you concerned about an historic resource in your community? 
Consider nominating it to the 2016 Massachusetts Most Endangered Historic Resources program! 

Preservation Massachusetts is accepting nominations to our 2016 Massachusetts Most Endangered Historic Resources Program!  

Since 1993, Preservation Massachusetts has endeavored to identify and aid in the preservation of endangered historic resources from across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Local groups or individuals who are deeply concerned about the potential loss of significant resources nominate sites from across the state. The list is one of the first steps in focusing statewide attention on the condition of these historic resources and their importance to communities, and often serves as a catalyst for extensive preservation opportunities.

Nomination deadline - August 15th
The K. Julie McCarthy Community Spirit Award
Nominate a Community Spirit Awardee Today!

The Community Spirit Awards were introduced by Preservation Massachusetts in 2010 as a way to recognize those who embody the spirit of community based historic preservation activities in our Commonwealth.  These individual and groups are committed to their communities and are active in efforts to therein to preserve buildings, character or expand the preservation ethic.  Their efforts and work are models for others to emulate in our community and can often go unrecognized, and to that end we are proud to be able to honor them and their achievements. 

Helpful Links:

Copyright © 20XX. All Rights Reserved.
Preservation Massachusetts