Meetinghouses of Early New England
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Introduction: A New England Icon Reconsidered
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The New England meeting house has long held a place in the American imagination as a cultural and historical icon. Meeting houses have stood for the community. They have enshrined traditional New England religious values. They have been a symbol of permanence, stability, democracy, and religious...
Part I. The Background
1. The Meetinghouse and the Community
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Although New England meeting houses were built primarily for public religious exercises, little about them was sacred for much of the seventeenth and eigh teenth centuries. Best described as two- or three-tiered municipal halls (fi g. 1.1), they were surrounded by hovels, horse stalls, horse blocks, well- sweeps,...
2. The Meetinghouse and the Church
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The Ipswich meeting house where Pomp was executed served the civic and legal needs of a major portion of eastern Massachusetts. Located in one of three shire towns of Essex County, this meeting house provided a seat of justice for a base population of about forty thousand that included Andover and Ipswich...
3. The Builders
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The “artificial workmen”¹ who erected New England’s meeting houses followed what amounted to a widespread agreement on what New England houses of worship should look like and how they should be constructed. This consensus was so broad that the raising and joining techniques workmen employed to...
4. Seating the Congregation
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The subject that most directly concerned committees in Springfield and Westminster was where the congregation would sit in their new houses of worship. Meeting house seating remained one of the most common topics of discussion at New England town and parish meetings for the first two hundred year...
Part II. The Architecture
5. Meetinghouses of the Seventeenth Century
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The lack of prior Christian houses of worship presented both an opportunity and a dilemma for first-generation New Englanders. In England and the northern Netherlands, churches were available in virtually every parish. During periods of Puritan ascendancy and especially during the Commonwealth period...
6. Meetinghouses of the Eighteenth Century
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Pinnacles and wainscoted pulpits were still widely in use in the 1680s and 1690s when new political and denominational elements entered the architectural equation. Despite the colonists’ best efforts to forestall it, the English under James II revoked the Massachusetts Bay charter and sent an English governor, Edmund...
7. Meetinghouses of the Early Nineteenth Century
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The increasing presence of compass windows, steepled bell towers, Georgian decorative modes, and interior and exterior colors in the eighteenth-century meeting house argues that New England’s Reformed congregations were no longer satisfied to attend religious services in a school-like or “intellectual” setting...
Part III. Conclusions
8. Some Theoretical Models
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One of the more salient characteristics of meeting houses raised in New England and Long Island in the period 1622 to 1830 is the regional variety that thrived within a broader framework of uniformity. This variety goes to the very heart of the vernacular definition of their appearance, and understanding it will...
9. Meetinghouse Architecture as Puritan Ecclesiology
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When Elias Carter’s meeting house designs reached towns in southern and central New Hampshire in the 1820s, rural New England’s ecclesiastic architecture had finally achieved the “Transcendantly Magnificent” stature proudly proclaimed by the Woodbury town clerk Joseph Minor in 1747.1 Carter’s meetinghouses...
10: A Fleeting Image
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Whether viewed as a weakening of sixteenth-century Calvinism, a gradual expansion of the sacraments, or the rhetorical republicanism of a new political era, the architectural transformation described here may have had a visual aspect to it that has hitherto remained obscure. The resurgence of English culture in...
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The New England meeting house leaves a striking legacy of impermanence. Despite protestations to the contrary, most parishioners agreed with Isaac Chauncy’s seventeenth-century view that meeting houses were simply “places of assembly,” presumably to be raised and demolished as the public saw fit. But...
Appendix A. Tables
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Appendix B. Chronological Checklist of Meetinghouses in New England and Long Island, 1622–1830
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Appendix C. Pinnacles, Pyramids, and Spires, 1651–1709
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Appendix D. Enlargements of Meetinghouses in New England by Cutting the Frame, 1723–1824
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Appendix E. Citations of Exterior Painting, 1678–1828
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Appendix F. Citations of Interior Painting, 1656–1817
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Appendix G. Meetinghouse Replications in New England, 1647–1828
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About the Author, Back Cover
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Page Count: 456
Publication Year: 2012