WHITING, Maine — The Union Meeting House, also known as the Whiting Village Church, was one of three properties in Maine named to the National Register of Historic Places in April. The other two were the Foster-Redington House in Waterville and the Bond Street Historic District in Augusta.
Built in 1836, the Union Meeting House reflects elements of Federal and Greek Revival architecture. According to a history of the town, it was remodeled in 1866, and the interior was redecorated in 1904, when a belfry was added. The building was nominated — and chosen — to the register because of its architectural significance.
“The question is really: is it a good example of its type,” Christi Mitchell, an architectural historian with the state Historic Preservation Commission, said Tuesday. Many churches were built in rural Maine in the 1800s, she noted.
“One of the great things about it is it has a great deal of integrity,” Mitchell said. The exterior is virtually the same as the original structure except for the later addition of the belfry.
“We’re looking at a very authentic church,” she said.
“There was such a good possibility that it was a historic building,” Mary Alice Look, a member of the Whiting Board of Selectmen who compiled the information necessary for the application, said Tuesday. Look obtained information from the original deed, a history of the town and other sources, and Mitchell provided assistance.
The building originally was a federated church with two different congregations sharing it and alternating worship services, according to Look.
It previously was owned by the Community of Church of Whiting, which, with only two members left, could not afford to take care of it and donated it to the town two years ago.
The town voted to appropriate $20,000 in each of the last two years to preserve the building. Voters easily approved the spending, according to Selectman Steve Pressley.
“They’re proud of their community,” said Pressley, who, with Look, spoke with a reporter at the Union Meeting House on Tuesday. “They like their church, and they want to keep it.”
The town also received a $10,000 grant from the Belvedere Historic Preservation Fund for restoration work.
Look said that the building was in “very sad” condition just a year ago. For example, the ceiling was black with mold, among other things.
So far monies have been used to abate the mold, remove old carpet and a heating system and debris, paint the interior, replace the roof, install a new heating system and more. Some of the windows have been refurbished, and others are being repaired.
A wedding is planned at the church on June 14, so efforts are underway to complete the remaining work by then.
“The thing I like best about the church is, hands down, the windows,” said Mitchell. So few buildings built in the era still have original windows, she noted.
Erik Squire, owner of Squire Millwork in Machias, has been refurbishing the windows and a door.
There are 1,614 Maine properties on the list of the National Register of Historic Places. Of these, 1,438 are individual buildings, while others are districts that encompass several buildings or even a college campus or town.
The Foster-Redington House was built in 1883, an example of Queen Anne architecture, and was the home of Moses Foster, a celebrated contractor who was commissioned to construct public buildings, churches and hotels throughout Maine, New Hampshire, Washington, D.C., and New Brunswick, Canada. He shared the home for a period with his daughter, Carrie, and son-in-law, Frank Redington, a prominent businessman.
The Bond Street Historic District contains seven single and multi-family homes built by a textile mill company between 1875 and 1884 for families of workers.
And right behind the Union Meeting House, in the Whiting Villiage Cemetery, rests the remains of patriot Col. John Crane. He was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, in 1744.
The patriots who carried out the Boston Tea Party on Dec. 16, 1773 — boarding three ships in Boston Harbor at night and dumping imported tea into the water in protest against a British tax on tea — gathered in his home that night. Crane and others carried out the protest, which helped spark the American Revolution, and Crane later served in the Revolutionary War. He received a land grant from Massachusetts for his service and moved to Whiting to settle on the land.
The land on which the church was built was purchased from his son, Isaac, who also is buried in the Whiting Village Cemetery.
Crane’s participation in the Boston Tea Party “is an interesting piece of history for the town,” said Mitchell, but it was not really a factor in the nomination.
Nevertheless, Mitchell lauded the townspeople of Whiting for their efforts, calling it a “really good example of a community embracing its heritage and finding a way to preserve the building.”