The South Congregational Church in Newport, NH, is located (as its name suggests) south of the commercial and civic heart of downtown Newport. The church congregation was founded in 1779 and grew substantially in the early 19th century. The church’s location, outside the present downtown, is the result of a long-running dispute within the town of where its civic heart should be located, to the north or south of the Sugar River. The consequence of this disagreement resulted in the placement of the Baptist church at the town common (north of the present-day commercial downtown), and the placement of this church here. The resulting development to the north of the river left this massive, brick Federal style church towering over the small working-class homes, with a majority of the town’s other significant Federal buildings built years later, like the Eagle Hotel and Old County Courthouse to the north of the river. The 1823 church is thought to have been designed by Elias Carter, who designed many Federal-era churches in the New England area.
Built in 1824, the South Church in Kennebunkport Village looked very much as it does today, with the exception of the portico, which was added in 1912. In the early 19th century, architects were seldom employed in such remote areas therefore, builders often used manuals and examples of other churches in addition to their own experience gained from working the large shipbuilding yards adjacent to the Kennebunk River. The cupola, restored in 1991, is designed after an example by Christopher Wren and the steeple retains the original 1824 Aaron Willard clock with its unique wooden face, still keeps accurate time and rings on the hour. The church remains as an active space with a growing congregation in the summer months.