2017-08-12 / Front Page

Campaign launches to save Biddeford Meetinghouse

By ED PIERCE
Executive Editor

BIDDEFORD — The scope for anyone interested in preserving vestiges of the past is constantly expanding and includes making a firm commitment to saving buildings of historic significance for generations to come.

Such is the case with Biddeford’s First Parish Meetinghouse.

Constructed in 1759 at the intersection of Meetinghouse Road and Old Pool Road, the colonial Meetinghouse is the oldest public building in Biddeford, and is one of the oldest buildings of its type in the entire state of Maine.

"Buildings become more than things, they are places where significant people lived and where amazing events took place," said Denis Letellier, president of the Biddeford Historical Society. "Not many communities can boast of a 400-year history like Biddeford can, and not many communities are fortunate enough to have the oldest meetinghouse in Maine, one that has weathered 260 years."

Letellier is leading a new capital campaign for the historical society that has launched to save the Biddeford meetinghouse, which he says is in dire need of repair.

"This regal structure has been sitting on rubble for 166 years ever since the building was modified in the 1840s, and is in desperate need of a solid foundation," he said. "Our roof is over 30 years old and this must be replaced soon."

He said the capital campaign will soon be approaching area businesses and welcomes input from the public about creative ways to raise funds for the project and preserve part of local history in the process.

Biddeford’s First Parish Meetinghouse served as a combined church and town hall until about 1840, Letellier said. 

It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and is now owned by the Biddeford Historical Society.

"Our beautiful meetinghouse is a regal reminder to when our country was going through the transition from a colony to independence. Back in 1776, the entire town proudly gathered to hear the reading of the Declaration of Independence," Letellier said. "During the emotional upheaval of the Civil War, it was here that soldiers congregated and it was here in 1867 that some of these same soldiers came to have their photos taken.

"Our Biddeford ancestors sat in these pews, listened to announcements of births and deaths, arbitrated legal and religious issues," he said. "They celebrated the seasons here and bent their heads in prayer. Our Biddeford great, Jeremiah Hill, came to this very meetinghouse to stand up for his right of free speech and thought when he was tried for heresy. Please help us to bring this beautiful structure – so central to our history – back to life. Save the historic meetinghouse before it is too late."

According to Letellier, the historical society will be sponsoring events over the next six months to support its capital campaign and he encourages everyone to support the initiative.

For more information about the #SavetheBiddefordMeetinghouse campaign, call 468-9305 or 282-1000 or visit biddefordhistoricalsociety.org

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 ext. 326 or by email at editor@journaltribune.com 

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