MACHIAS IS — The structural stabilization of the 1837 First Congregational Church of East Machias has been successfully completed. The project will be the subject of a documentary on a major cable network.
Placed on Maine Preservation’s list of most endangered historic places last year, the local community quickly raised $475,000 and oversaw the structural stabilization of the building. Over 250 donations were received.
Less than a year ago, the historic church faced an uncertain future. There was major failure and rotting of many key timbers supporting the nearly 100ft tall tower. Many experts in the historic preservation community feared the church would not be saved.
With structural repairs now complete by The Steeple People of nearby Jonesboro, the building can continue to serve as a meeting place for the congregation. Friends of the First Congregational Church of East Machias may also pursue the reuse of the building as a community performance space.
“Friends of the First Congregational Church of East Machias overcame an extraordinary obstacle to stabilize the historic steeple,” said Tara Kelly, executive director of Maine Preservation. “Now, work begins on a full restoration of this important resource to welcome the general public as it transforms into a cultural center for all of Washington County and beyond.”
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places half a century ago, the First Congregational Church in East Machias has long been recognized as a special building in Maine. The congregation was led by several prominent ministers nationally in the 19th century, who gave some of the very first speeches in favor of the abolition of slavery.
Although the stabilization project is a success, much remains to be done. Phase two of the project will focus on improving the accessibility and functionality of the space, as well as restoring the sanctuary and the remaining facades. The main challenges are providing access to the church building and determining which toilets are suitable for a large audience.
According to Erica Famous, local fundraising and stabilization work coordinator, “We are grateful for the support received from many individuals, government agencies, elected officials and businesses, as well as the Maine Steeples Fund, Maine Community Foundation and Maine Preservation. . Community support for this important project has been outstanding and everyone who has contributed should be proud. With this phase complete, we can now focus on phase two of this project and the associated fundraising. »
The church sits in the heart of historic East Machias and is one of the oldest religious institutions in the city. However, due to a significant decrease in the size of the congregation, the building has been rarely used in recent years. Through a shared use agreement, church trustees partnered with Friends of the First Congregational Church of East Machias to manage, repair, and reestablish the building as a cultural arts center. To learn more, visit www.EastMachiasCulturalArtsCenter.org.