Colonial Meetinghouses Featured in this Project
Name of Meetinghouse:   Province Road Meeting House
Street Address of Meetinghouse:   251 Province Road, Belmont, NH
Year(s) Built:   1792
National Register of Historic Places Designation:   pending
New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places:   January 27, 2003
Organization responsible:   Belmont Historical Society
Organization's e-mail:   Belmonthistory@gmail.com
Organization's web site:   Belmont Historical Society
Town Information:   Town of Belmont, New Hampshire
Tax status:   501(c)(3) - tax exempt
Contact:   Wallace Rhodes, 77 Church St., Belmont, NH 03220
Telephone:   (603) 267-6272
This page was last updated on:   December 8, 2008
Acknowledgements: The following text has been taken in part from the Individual Inventory Form, which was prepared as part of the application for the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places, and from personal correspondence with Wallace Rhodes, and has been used by permission.
The Province Road Meeting House is representative of the evolution of both the concept and the appearance of a church building and what constituted a congregation. As an early New England meetinghouse, this building was originally designed to serve a scattered population. As population increased, people often chose to worship in the various churches which were established nearer to their homes, and the concept of a large regional meetinghouse became outdated. Many such structures were abandoned or torn down and no longer exist. Although in a considerably altered state, the Province Road Meeting House is the only meetinghouse still standing in what used to be the town of Old Gilmanton.
Although apparently built as a community effort, the Province Road Meeting House in its early years appears to have been primarily occupied by Congregationalists. Beginning in 1816, the building was occupied by the Free Will Baptist Church. In 1981, the property was acquired by the Belmont Historical Society.
When it was originally constructed, the Province Road Meeting House was thought to have conformed to the classic meetinghouse design: the building measured 52 feet by 40 feet with the south-facing main entrance along the long wall, two story open interior with galleries (balconies) on 3 of the walls, a raised pulpit on the 4th (north) wall, additional doors on the east and west walls, and box pews. Surviving examples of what the Province Road structure might have looked like include the meetinghouses at Webster and Sandown, New Hampshire.
As the architectural tastes for church structures changed in the early to mid-1800's, the Province Road Meeting House was reduced to one story, and considerably altered, both inside and outside. Church records indicate that these major changes took place between 1835 and 1855. It is speculated that the reduction in height of the structure, which occurred in 1835, was accomplished by removing the lower portions of the walls, thus leaving the roof trusses and upper portion of the building intact. In 1854, the building was rotated so that the short end faced the road, and it is likely that the current pews and windows date from this period. In 1903, the original pulpit was sold at auction for 50 cents. The current belfry was added in 1910.
The Province Road Meeting House represents the evolution of a regional meetinghouse to a country church. Unlike many such structures, the building changed along with the needs of the community rather than being replaced with a new structure, as was often the case. Since the congregation was never large nor wealthy, most changes after the reconstruction of the 1850's were modest in nature, and often took advantage of the ability to "recycle" materials.
The Belmont Historical Society is currently contemplating restoring the building to its pre-Civil War condition of the 1850's. A thorough physical investigation of the building is being conducted for the Historical Society - funded by the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (LCHIP) - to better understand exactly what the building evolution was, and to assist the society in planning for its future. The report should be ready in the spring of 2009.