First Congregational Church in Farmington listed on National Register of Historic Places
Union Leader Correspondent
February 01. 2018 8:52PM
According to Peter Michaud, who works for the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources, the church is the first building in Farmington to be honored with this distinction. The only other site in Farmington on the register is the town pound, a stone wall enclosure where animals could be kept.
“It is an accomplishment. It is an official designation that says this is a place worthy of saving,” Michaud said Wednesday.
Michaud said the First Congregational Church was selected as an example of Gothic Revival architecture and the work of architect Frederick N. Footman of Somersworth.
Footman was one of the first students to enroll in MIT's architectural program. He designed the historic Almshouse at the Strafford County Farm in Dover and the 1886 Laconia High School, which became the district courthouse in 1977.
First Congregational Church on Main Street in Farmington was built in 1875 to replace a wooden structure that burned to the ground.
Interim Minister Kent Schneider said the land was donated by a millionaire named Hiram Barker, who was born a poor boy but made his fortune in lumber and other business enterprises.
Schneider said the historic designation will help the congregation raise the $40,000 needed to preserve 17 original grisaille stained glass windows valued at $196,000. In 1976, the congregation had a clear plastic protective window placed over each one to prevent damage.
Over time, the plastic has weathered to the point where people passing by the church cannot appreciate the details in the stained glass, Schneider said.
Lorraine Doe and her husband, Wallis Doe, of Lebanon, Maine, joined the church in 1966.
She researched the history of the structure and transcribed records so the church could apply to be listed on the state and national registers of historic places.
“I spent hours upon hours on the computer, contacting libraries and going over articles,” Lorraine said.
Wallis, who helped maintain the church for years as a younger man, helped the church figure out how to restore internal rope systems so the stained glass windows could be opened again.
Schneider said the church's food pantry serves a large number of people because 20 percent of Farmington residents live below the poverty line. He said the closest grocery store is over a mile away, making it difficult for people without transportation.
Blessed Bargains, a thrift store, is located downstairs. According to church member Dottie Bean of Farmington, it is the only place in town where people can buy clothing, Inside, men's suits sell for $8, and a warm winter coat goes for $5.
“It helps a lot of people,” Bean said.
On May 20, the congregation is planning a celebration of the National Register of Historic Places distinction.
For more information, visit www.farmingtonnhucc.org.