Historic Preservation and Accessibility Projects for the Meetinghouse at First Parish
In 2010, First Parish Church began an ambitious effort to renew our 1769 Meetinghouse in East Derry. With a series of projects starting in 2011, our accomplishments to date dwarf most such projects. These include:
- A new foundation,
- Timber frame floor and wall rehabilitation,
- Complete rehab of the leaning Tower,
- Rebuilding of the ornate Steeple,
- Repairing and painting the exterior, and
- Constructing the Connector, an adjacent elevator building providing accessibility for all.
Now in 2022 we are shifting focus to the rehabilitation of the entire Sanctuary, including the large auditorium, two-level Narthex, staircases, and the choir loft and rooms upstairs.
- Peeling lead paint on the ceiling,
- Cracking asbestos tiles and glue on the floor,
- Cracks from significant to minor in the historic plaster walls,
- Outdated electrical, fire, and lighting systems, and
- Creating the new entrance from the Connector.
As with all the several projects we’ve already completed, this work will follow Historic Preservation guidelines as well as current best practices, while keeping costs as low and delays as short as possible.
Through church fundraising drives, donations from the community, grants, and a bank loan, the church has so far invested about $1.9M. We are expecting the full Sanctuary Rehab to need as much as another $1M.
Why Preserve the Meetinghouse?
Built by the descendants of the first settlers of old Nutfield, the Meetinghouse is a significant historic landmark and a destination for scholars and tourists from New England, Northern Ireland, and around the world. It has served as the center of religious and civic life—hosting Derry Town Meetings for 150 years, for example—and appears in the town seal and more as a beautiful reminder of the New England village image we cherish and lifestyle we strive to retain.
The Meetinghouse is also the beloved home of our church, one of the oldest continuously-running religious organizations in the region, tracing its roots back to Nutfield founder Rev. James MacGregor in 1719.
Through our mission to serve the community, over 30 community and social groups have used the First Parish facility In recent years (pre-pandemic). The new spaces in the finished Meetinghouse will eventually serve the community even better, with a variety of meeting and event spaces. The Sanctuary itself—with great acoustics, new accessibility, and a superior heating system—will be a beautiful new mid-size hall for concerts, lectures, and more.
How You Can Help
We are currently running the Path to the Sanctuary Campaign, encouraging donations now and pledges for contributions over this year and next. Both are important, as funds in hand allow us to get moving on projects, while the longer-term pledges support planning next year’s work.
Please support this effort now by sending in a pledge card or just getting a check to:
First Parish Congregational Church
ATTN: Financial Secretary
PO Box 114
East Derry, NH 03041
You can also give electronically through the Friends of the Meetinghouse at First Parish donations page. Also visit the Friends site to participate in additional fundraising programs as they roll out.