Historic meetinghouse in Washington gets its long-overdue celebration
Saturday, the 225-year-old building was honored in an all-day celebration that ended with the premiere of the documentary film “Meetinghouse: The Heart of Washington, New Hampshire.”
“We thought if these walls could talk what would they say,” said native and town archivist Gwen Gaskell.
The film was funded, in part, by the New Hampshire Humanities Council and the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.
“There isn't a meetinghouse in New Hampshire with such well-crafted design,” said Washington Town Historian Ron Jager, while giving a tour of the structure on Saturday.
Jager is credited as being a driving force behind the making of the documentary.
“When you're building a meetinghouse just after the Revolutionary War there are things you just can't get out of the woods and that's glass and brick and paint,” Jager said.
Glass was important since the 1,700 window panes allowed sunlight to illuminate the interior of the building when it was first built, he said.
Though those items would have been imported to the town, the all day celebration of the 225th anniversary of the building included glassmaking, brick and paint demonstrations, as well as a wood/construction crafts demonstration of the skills and tools used to erect the building more than two centuries ago.
Town Welfare Officer Carolyn Russell, who is credited with spearheading the anniversary celebration, said the event was planned to be fun and educational.
A farmer's market, living or home arts demonstrations, as well as children's games and various demonstrations, rounded out the festivities to give attendees a taste of what life was like in the early post-Revolutionary War era in New Hampshire. An era strongly tied to the town by its name.
“We are the first town incorporated in the name of George Washington,” Gaskell said.
Washington was settled in 1768. In December of 1776 it was incorporated as a town and was named after General George Washington.
Over the years the meetinghouse served as a place of worship for various churches, town meetings, an 1800s high school known as Tubs Union Academy, theatrical productions and wedding receptions.
Though the first floor remains in use by the town, the second floor hall has been off limits since 1989 because it is inaccessible to those with physical disabilities, Jager said.
The town has started raising money to fund a renovation that would add an elevator so that the second floor could be used in compliance with ADA regulations.
The renovation project would also add office space below the building.
Jager said the town hopes to start the project in five to six years.
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Meghan Pierce may be reached at email@example.com.
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