History of
the House

The Old Meeting House

The Meeting House is thought to be the third oldest Puritan Meeting House in New England still standing on it’s original “Green”. Built 61 years before the Revolutionary War, it is older than the Old South Meeting House, Fanuel Hall or King’s Chapel in Boston. As one noted historian has said, “It is without question the most historic building within the limits of the original town of Lynn”.

On November 17th, 1712 by order of the general court, that part of Lynn now called Lynnfield was established as a parish. This would free the inhabitants from paying parish taxes to Lynn as soon as a meeting house could be built. On November 22nd, 1713, 32 men and 1 woman voted to build the meeting house, chose a site, and subscibe 130 pounds to pay for it. The deed of land on which this building stands was dated, “This seventh day of December 1714 and in ye reign of our sovereign Lord George, King of Great Briton, ect.” The deed further reads “All that land whereon ye sd precint meeting house now standeth.....”

As originally built, the Meeting House was almost square. The pulpit stood upon the Northeastern side, a sounding board above. There were 3 outside doors with large horse blocks for dismounting before each. There were galleries on 3 sides where the slaves and hind men sat and where, in one corner, the gunpowder was stored. The building had neither paint nor plaster and had no steeple or provision for heat, until a stove was added in 1824.

In 1751 it was voted to plaster, clapboard, shingle, and install new window frames. In 1782, the Meeting House was literally cut in two and a 14 foot section inserted in the middle. In 1800 it was voted to raise $100 to paint the Meeting House; the next year the vote was resinded and fifty years passed before it was finally painted.

In 1832 18 people dissented from the growing Unitarian Theology and left to build their own church across from the Meeting House. This still stands as the Chapel of the Congregational Church. In 1836 the remaining members, burdened by the cost of maintenance of the building, proposed to the town that a second floor be put in where the galleries were, so that the upper floor could be used for church services and the lower story be given to the inhabitants of Lynnfield for a town house provided the town of Lynnfield pay one half of the cost of the expenses and repairs. The proposal was accepted and the lower floor was used as a town hall and meeting place for over 50 years. Dedication of a new town hall in 1892 brought about the final separation of church and state as all civic activities were transferred to the new building.

However, the lower hall soon served the community in new ways. It served as the primary school in the center district until the 2 room Center School was built on Main Street in 1903 and then became the fire station for Lynnfield center and was known as the “Chemical House”. Large barn doors replaced the original door on the Main Street side of the building, part of the floor was lowered to accomodate the fire engines, and in 1918 a belfry was added to the house the large bell which served as the fire alarm. The bell was installed on a block of granite on the common in 1964.

In May of 1960 the dedication of the present Fire and Police Station brought an end to this era in the Meeting House. The Lynnfield Historical Society, founded in 1954, became custodian of the Meeting House under the ownership of the town of Lynnfield which pays for the annual maintenance of the building. The town appropriated $2,000 to remove the belfry, replace the fire engine doors and restore the windows on the Main Street end of the building. The Historical Society raised the money for the rest of the resoration work.




What to look for in the Meeting House today

Architecturally, the Meeting House was the simple and strictly functional design typical of New England buildings of this period. The entire frame is of oak, the roof trusses being unusual in that they are braced by a process called “crowning” used in ship building and old barns of Europe. If you will go upstairs and look at the ceiling you can see these trusses as well as the oak beams and wooden pins used to join them. You will notice that the 2 center beams appear more worn than the end beams. When the extra 14 feet were added to the building in 1782, pine was used instead of oak and through the years fell victim to the Powder Post Beatle. The Historical Society removed the ceiling hiding the rafters in 1960, the damaged was discovered and the beams treated.

The pine pews reflect the architecture of the early 19th century. On the underside of some of the seats is the annual cost ranging from $8.00 in the front to $4.50 at the rear of the room. A copy of one of the original deeds which were conveyed from one owner to another like real property is on exhibit on the first floor. It was 1908 before the congregation experimented with free pews.