Building History

meetinghouseFamilies from the Lancaster, MA area began arriving in what was to become the town of Wendell in the 1750s. Busy with the hard work of carving homesteads out of virgin forest, the settlers lived here without any political or ecclesiastical organization for twenty years. Then in late November, 1774, a council of twenty men convened for the purpose of organizing a Congregational church. A few days later, thirteen women joined them. However, it was not until 1783, two years after the town’s incorporation, that the town began construction of a Meetinghouse for the Congregational church. Oliver Wendell, a wealthy Boston judge and banker who owned much acreage in town, funded the first church and gifted it with a Bible and a silver baptismal font. Building the Meetinghouse took almost ten years and it was “never graced with spire, tower or bell,” but it served the people until the summer of 1846 when it was torn down (being “uncomely and uncomfortable”) and replaced with the current structure.

Today’s 167-year old Meetinghouse is a two-story, double entrance church built in the Greek Revival style. Its design and construction are attributed to Luke Leach, a master carpenter in Wendell who is thought to have built many of the Greek Revival houses around the Common. The church bell, still in the tower, was cast in 1846 by the G. H. Holbrook bell foundry in Medway, MA. (George Holbrook apprenticed to Paul Revere and his company cast over 11,000 bells which were sent to all parts of the US, the British Provinces, Mexico and the Sandwich Islands.) Originally, the church had a steeple, but it was splintered by a bolt of lightning in the 1920s. The church building was used continuously as a church until 1972; it reopened in 1981 only to close its doors again ten years later.

The Friends of the Wendell Meetinghouse are actively engaged in restoring this Meetinghouse, an integral part of Wendell’s history, to its former glory. The windows and doors were started and completed this year. There is much left to do! We are grateful for any contribution you can make. Thank you.