Park Hill Meeting House
National Register Nomination Information:
The Park Hill Meeting House is a two-story rectangular wooden building with a gable roof, a square tower on the front (south) elevation, and a shallow entrance portico. The facade of the building is five bays wide, and the middle three bays are embraced by the portico. Supported on two pairs of attenuated and unfluted columns set at the right and left extremities of the entablature, this portico has a Doric frieze, a delicately moulded cornice, and a triangular pediment with a pitch equal to that of the roof of the main building. Each triglyph in the portico frieze has a row of drilled holes along its upper edge, just above the glyphs, in addition to the usual guttae along the bottom. The raking cornices of both the pediment and the main building have narrow friezes enriched with an applied guilloche. The flush-boarded tympanum has an elliptical window with radiating tracery, embellished with an enframement of applied window foliage.
Beneath the portico on the first story are three matched doors, each flanked by attenuated Tuscan pilasters which support a common entablature. The cornice of this entablature is enriched by rope mouldings of two different sizes, and by bed mouldings composed of fillets and turned beads. Above the doors, on the second story, are three windows. The two pairs of portico columns are reflected on the face of the main building by similar pairs of attenuated pilasters; each of the outer corners of the facade is emphasized by another pair of pilasters supporting paired architrave blocks. Between the ends of the portico and the corners of the building is a single window on each floor.
The square tower of the meeting house is supported partly on the roof of the main building and partly on the roof of the portico. Its first stage is unornamented except for a Palladian window on the south (front) elevation. The second stage of the tower is a belfry with arched openings in each elevation; these are flanked by paired Tuscan pilasters at each corner of each elevation, and above the pilasters is a frieze and moulded cornice. In the spandrels above the archivolts of the belfry openings are radiating fans of carved wood. Above the cornice of the belfry stage is a balustrade with turned balusters and urn finials at each corner. The third stage is an octagonal lantern with a single arched opening on each face, flanked by Tuscan pilasters at the angles. These openings are closed by louvered blinds. The pilasters support a simple entablature which is crowned by a lattice balustrade bearing an urn finial at each angle. The lantern is topped by an ogee dome having a pineapple-shaped finial and a banneret weathervane.
The side elevations of the building are divided into two stories of five bays each, all windows having 12/12 sash. Windows on the second floor were enlarged when the meeting house was divided into two stories in 1853 and have larger panes of glass than those on the first floor. Clapboards on the rear of the meeting house bear traces of the many remodellings that the structure has undergone over the years.
The meeting house was given its present exterior form in 1824, when a bay of twenty feet was added to one end of a simple rectangular structure to accommodate the tower and provide a new facade. This remodelling transformed the interior of the old building into a single auditorium with galleries on three sides, a pulpit on the north wall, and stairs in the added bay on the south. Few traces of the interior woodwork of this remodelling remain. In l853 the building was divided into two stories, the first floor being subdivided into two large rooms and several smaller ones, and the second being transformed into an auditorium with slip pews. Stairways in the southeast and southwest corners of the entrance bay, originally rising to the galleries, now give access to the second-floor auditorium. The original gallery posts on the first floor were left in place to support the new flooring above Today the first-floor rooms are used for meetings and exhibitions, while the second continues its use for church services and is characterized by door and window casings and other woodwork in the Greek Revival style, added in 1853. The auditorium has raised platforms at front and rear for preaching and choral use, and is furnished with portable church furniture of the mid-nineteenth century.
Effect of the Move on the historical Integrity of the Building: The Park Hill Meeting House has been moved twice, first in 1779 and then in 1824. The first move was a direct result of a demographic shift in Westmoreland, and was intended to relocate the building near the new center of population in the town. The second move coincided with the remodelling of the building to its present exterior form, and appears to have been dictated by aesthetic considerations. It entailed the placing of the structure 90 feet north of its former site, in a higher and more prominent location, and thus allowed the new facade with its tower and portico to be seen to better advantage from the surrounding countryside. Since this second move was dictated by the same motivations that gave the structure the architectural form for which it is chiefly nominated, this move is an integral and significant part of the history of the building and reveals the aesthetic attitudes of the people of Westmoreland in the 1820s.
The Park Hill Meeting House is significant in that its evolution since the time of its construction in 1764 embodies the history of the religious society that built and maintained it, while at the same time typifying the broader history of meeting house architecture in southwestern New Hampshire during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Bellows, Robert P., Country Meeting Houses along the Massachusetts-New Hampshire Line, The White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs, XI, 5 (1925).
Sinnott, Edmund W., Meetinghouse and Church in Early New England. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1963.
Westmoreland History Committee, History of Westmoreland (Great Meadow) New Hampshhire, 1741-1970. Westmoreland, N.H.: the authors, 1976.
DATE ENTERED: September 8, 1980.
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