Buildings & Artifacts

The Buildings That Have Been Home to First Parish

Scituate's first meeting house was located on a rise slightly inland from the harbor on Meeting House Lane. Two successive larger meeting houses were located on the same site. A fourth meetinghouse was built farther to the west (on the western edge of what is now Lawson Park).

The fifth meething house was built in 1774 on the site of the present church. It was a large, two-story building with galleries on three sides. Its high, graceful steeple was a landmark for sailors at sea and the church became known as the Old Sloop because of the spire's resemblance to the white sails of a sloop.

On July 4, 1879, children playing with firecrackers on the front steps set fire to the church and it burned to the ground. The only items saved were the heavy mahogony pulpit, the settee, and the communion table that are used in the church today. Chunks of metal from the Paul Revere bell that melted in the fire were made into miniature bells which were sold to raise funds for the present ediface. While the present church was being built, services were held in the Cudworth House (rebuilt in 1797), located across from the church.

The present ediface was dedicated in 1881. The church stands in the shadow of another famous Scituate landmark, the Lawson Tower. This Norman-like tower housed a water tower that served the Town of Scituate. Thomas Lawson, the copper magnate, had the present structure built to hide the unsightly water tower and installed a carillon that is still played on the occasion of historic celebrations.

Historic Artifacts in the Church

The present mahogany pulpit, settee, and communion table were the only items saved from the fire that destroyed the church which existed on the site of the present building from 1774 to 1879. When the present church was built the parishioners desired new furniture; they placed two oak chairs, presently in the rear of the auditorium, on either side of a small, oak pulpit. When the interior of the church was redecorated in 1924, someone remembered that the mahogany furniture was stored in the basement of a parishioner, and they were refinished and restored to their present places in the church.

Stained Glass
The tall, pointed window to the left of the pulpit is a stained glass. It was donated by the Waterman family in memory of Andrew and Lucia D. Waterman. It depicts a three-masted sailing vessel of the type that was built in the shipyards of the nearby North River during the 19th century (one of these yards launched the ship Columbia after which the Columbia River in the Northwest is named). The window celebrates the extensive involvement of parishioners with seafaring and carries the verse, "They that go down to the sea in ships that do business in great waters: these see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep."

Musical Instruments
The organ was a gift of Cornelia and George Allen in 1907 in memory of George's wife, Deborah. Originally pumped by hand, it was electrified in 1928.

A bass viol, which was the first instrument used in the church, stands in a case in the rear of the church. It was made in 1823 by the Asa and Shadrach Merritt who lived in Scituate. A companion instrument was made for the Trinitarian Church after it separated from First Parish in 1825. The latter is presently in the possession of the Scituate Historical Society.

An oil painting of the Old Sloop Church hangs in the Sloop Room. It was done by Mary Ann Cole circa. 1840. A newer oil hangs adjacent to the Cole painting; it was done by parishioner Kay Shaw on the occasion of First Parish's 375th anniversary. Pictures of the churches that had their origins in First Parish, Scituate, hang in the vestibule. Thery were created by Clara Clement, a parishioner.

Other Artifacts
There is a large wooden ship's steering wheel mounted in the entrance foyer. It came from a merchant sailing vessel that plied the waters of the Great Lakes. It was given to the Church by Barbara Geyer to enhance the nautical tradition of " Old Sloop," and mounted by Gilman Wilder. The breakfront in the Sloop Room contains several artifacts from the history of the church.