This large wooden building in Waterford, Maine, looks much like a church, because it was built as one in 1844! The building was constructed as a Universalist Church just over a decade after a local Universalist Society was formed in the area in 1830. In the subsequent decades of the church’s founding, dwindling membership by the time of the Civil War required the group to sell the building to local businessmen. The town rented a space in the building which used a floor as a school, after an additional floor was added to the base, giving the building the vertical appearance it has today. in 1896, the Bear Mountain Grange purchased the building as a meeting hall, allowing the school to operate in the building (an arrangement that lasted until 1949)! The building has seen better days, but besides the chipping paint and some wood-rot, it retains the original windows and has been relatively un-altered!
Eli Longley (1762-1839) came to Waterford, Maine by way of Bolton, Mass., in 1789 and erected a log cabin in town. As the first settler to build in this part of town, he owned a substantial piece of property, which was frequently travelled through as the area was being developed. Seeing a need for lodging, he built a one-story tavern in the location of this building, which was added onto and modified as demand and the area’s population grew. Longley would also subdivide some of his land for house lots along the new town common, selling to new settlers as they arrived. Longley sold the tavern in 1817, which was acquired later in 1847 by Dr. Calvin Farrar. Taking advantage of a nearby mineral spring, Dr. Farrar opened a successful hydropathic spa, which used natural waters to cure patients of their ailments. The spa was taken over by Dr. William P. Shattuck, who expanded the site as the “Maine Hygienic Institute”, a hospital exclusively for lady patients employing eclectic treatment. This business and the tourism it generated helped shift the town from a sleepy village to a tourist destination by the late 19th century, where city-dwellers would flock to view the natural scenery and breathe in the clean air. In the 1860s-70s, Shattuck “modernized” the Lake House Hotel with the two-story Victorian-era porch and sawn decorative trim.
The most architecturally significant example of the Federal style in Waterford, Maine, is this c.1810 home built for Ambrose Knight, who operated a store in town. The high-style Federal home features a well-proportioned fanlight over the entrance with a Palladian window above, all with geometric moulding. The home was likely built by a housewright who employed designs from Asher Benjamin’s pattern books for builders, as the high-style features and Palladian windows are uncommon in this part of Maine.
Upon first glance, this transitional Federal and Greek Revival style church building in Waterford, Maine, appears to date to the early-mid 19th century, but things are not always as they appear! The Waterford Congregational Church we see today was actually built in 1928, after a fire that year destroyed the previous building, constructed in 1837. The congregation hired Maine architect John Calvin Stevens, who designed over 1,000 buildings in his career. The church was “masterfully recreated in almost every detail” from the 1837 building, down to the 1,200-pound bell cast from the historic Revere foundry bell.
The Town of Waterford, Maine was created as the result of a 1774 grant made by the General Court of Massachusetts to the descendants of a company of Massachusetts soldiers involved in a 1690 expedition against the French in Canada, leading to the Battle of Quebec. The land was surveyed in 1774; in spring of 1775, David McWain of Bolton, Massachusetts arrived with his dog at a lot he bought for $40. He cleared land and built a log cabin, returning to Bolton for two winters until he settled permanently at Waterford in spring of 1777. The town grew around agriculture and industry with sawmills built at streams to manufacture the region’s abundant timber into lumber. The town later became more of a resort area in the early 20th century, with urban-dwellers flocking to the area to take in the fresh air and natural scenery.
This church in North Waterford is located in a more rural part of the town, and was constructed in 1860 by a group of local residents from designs by Maine architect Thomas Holt. The Italianate influence is evident from the round-arched windows set in a recessed arch and a bracketed cornice. The steeple looks to be more contemporary and slightly turns, giving it a really interesting presence.