Colonial Meetinghouses Featured in this Project
Name of Meetinghouse:   Ware Center Meeting House
Street Address of Meetinghouse:   Corner of Belchertown Rd. (Route 9) and Greenwich Plains Road, Ware, MA
Year(s) Built:   1799
National Register of Historic Places Designation:   yes
Massachusetts State Register of Historic Places:   ?
Organization responsible:   Proprietors of Ware Center Meeting House
Organization's address:   PO Box 1401, Ware, MA 01082
Organization's web site:   Ware Historical Society
Town web site:   Town of Ware
Tax status:   501 (c)(3) tax exempt
Contact:   Donald Bacon, 14 Robbins Rd., Ware, MA 01082
Telephone:   (413) 967-4995
This page was last updated on:   July 9, 2009
Acknowledgements: The text below is taken from a pamphlet prepared by the Proprietors of Ware Center Meeting House, and from The Little White Church at the Crossroads of Ware by Carla Wessels of the Ware Historical Commission, and has been used by permission.
Located on Route 9 in Ware, Massachusetts, The Ware Center Meeting House, which once served as the center of life in this rural community, is now among the ten most endangered historic structures in Massachusetts. The current meetinghouse structure was built in 1799 and has served as the very first Town Hall, the first school, and the parish home for the First Church of Ware.
The First Congregational Church, also known as the Ware Center Church and Meeting House, is the oldest church in Ware. It originally served as both a church and a seat of town government for Ware Parish. Behind the church is a burial ground reserved for ministers and deacons and their families. Ware Center - which is more than a mile from the center of the Town of Ware today - was the center of the town at the time. It was the location of the town green, and a meeting place where one could find a tavern, the blacksmith, and the animal pound.
In 1716, John Read bought over 11,000 acres of land and named it The Manour of Peace. The land was laid out to become a Christian Parish with a Church of Christ and a minister of the Gospel.
In 1741, Read found 33 males living in The Manour of Peace or the surrounding area and secured their signatures on a petition asking for a "precinct" or a "parish."
On December 2, 1742, an act established Ware River Precinct. Several months later, a warrant was signed for the residents to assemble their first meeting and organize a parish government. The very first Board of Selectmen included Edward Ayers, Jacob Cummings and Joseph Simond. Annual meetings were held to raise money to hire a minister to preach. Without a central location to meet, the preaching took place in local homes.
The First Congregational Church was chartered in 1743. It served as a witness to the piety and struggles of the early settlers and to the devotion of its descendents. Members of this community were accustomed to hardship and able to cope with difficulties. They were devoted to the gospel of Christ and impressed their faith onto their children.
In 1749, it was voted to build a meetinghouse, and that was completed a year later near the site of the present meetinghouse in Ware Center. The building was 35'x25' and the congregation consisted of approximately 30 members. Reverend Grindall Rawson served as the first pastor. The Town of Ware would not be established until 11 years later.
In 1798-99, a new building was built in the style of the colonial meetinghouses of the period. By 1843, improvements and remodeling took place. The front door faced Enfield Road instead of Greenwich Plains Road. The galleries were removed, a floor was installed and the upstairs was used for religious services. Pews were sold to the families of the parish, making sure to always reserve Pews 1 & 2 for the Minister & Deacon's families. The lower part would be used for Town Meetings.
To this day official town notices must be posted at both the Town Hall and the Ware Center Meeting House.
In 1986 a fire caused significant damage to the Ware Center Meeting House. Current restoration efforts are progressing slowly, dependent upon the help of grants and private funds.
The Proprietors of the Ware Center Meeting House is a nonprofit corporation formed expressly for the restoration and rehabilitation of the Ware Meeting House. Incorporated in 1997, the group works to provide a repository for historical artifacts as well as a place to host educational programs and community social events. The Proprietors have recently secured a grant from the state, overseen by the Massachusetts Historical Commission, to continue rehabilitation of The Meeting House. So far, windows have been replaced, artifacts have been catalogued, and an architect has been hired. In 2006 the exterior of the building was painted.
In July, 2009, WGBH Television used the Ware Center Meeting House as the setting for a portion of the PBS production God in America, which will air in the fall of 2010.