As part of Maine’s Bicentennial in 2020, the Tides Institute & Museum of Art mounted during the summer of last year an exhibition of works from its collections ranging in date from 1820 to the present. In addition, the Tides Institute will publish a Bicentennial book featuring 100 works from its collections and the stories behind the works and how they came into the Tides Institute’s collection. Each week, one of the selected works will be featured in our weekly online posting, CulturePass, to this region’s cultural activities and on our website here.
This week’s piece is the Central Congregational Church building located on Middle Street in Eastport, Maine. Long known as the Seaman’s Church, the building was constructed in 1828, dedicated in February, 1829, with Daniel Low as local architect and builder. Little is known about Low other that he designed and built several early nineteenth houses in Eastport that are still standing near the church. The church building employs uniquely strong construction techniques not found elsewhere in New England. The original steeple of the church blew over in the Saxby Gale of 1869 and was replaced by the current steeple of different design. The tall steeple has long served as a navigational marker as it can be seen from a great distance at sea. The original main sanctuary space (as shown in photograph) is very largely intact though the original balcony was enclosed in about 1890 with later Gothic style windows lining the enclosing interior wall of the balcony. Earle Shettleworth, Jr., long time director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, recently wrote that he felt that the Central Congregational church building is “the finest example of federalist architecture in Washington County, Maine.” The building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976. The building and property were gifted to the Tides Institute by the Congregational Church congregation in 2016. The small congregation continues to meet seasonally at the church building on Sunday mornings.