Our History: Over 275 Years of Rich Tradition and Heritage
When Yarmouth’s First Parish Congregational Church was founded in 1730, it was the ninth church in what is today the state of Maine. The original location faced Casco Bay, near the present intersection of Route 88 and Gilman Road. Nicknamed “the old meeting house under the ledge,” the building had box pews and a high pulpit with sounding board. The congregation came to worship on foot, on horseback and by water.
In the 19th century as the town moved inland, so did the church. A second, larger church building was constructed in 1818 at the corner of Main and Bridge Streets in the neighborhood of the newly organized North Yarmouth Academy. It also had box pews and a high pulpit, and a bell range from its steeple. It was later known as “the old sloop.”
By the 1860’s the need was felt for a larger, more modern church. The current church building was dedicated in 1868, designed by a noted Portland architect, George N. Harding, who worked in the Italianate style. The church bell was moved across the street to the new church’s steeple, which is said to be one of the highest in the area. Although electricity and oil heat have been added and several rows of pews removed, the church interior today is very similar to that of 1868. A new parish hall replaced the original vestry in 1978.
Paint research in the 1990’s led to restoration of the elaborate, multi-colored Victorian stenciling which decorated the walls and ceiling of the sanctuary at the time it was built. In 1995 First Parish Church was named to the National Register of Historic Places. In celebration of the church’s 275th anniversary in 2005, all of the windows in the sanctuary were restored to their original color and design.
The church has had 31 “senior” ministers in its 275 years; and since 1981, four associate ministers have also served.