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Rockingham Meetinghouse
U.S. Historic district
Contributing property
Rockingham Meeting House.jpg
Front of the Meeting House
Rockingham Meeting House is located in Vermont
Rockingham Meeting House
Location in Vermont
Rockingham Meeting House is located in the United States
Rockingham Meeting House
Location in the United States
Location Off VT 103, Rockingham, Vermont
Area 4.4 acres (18,000 m2)
Built 1787-1801
Architect General John Fuller
Part of Rockingham Village Historic District (ID07001346)
NRHP reference No. 79000232
Quick facts for kids
Significant dates
Added to NRHP September 10, 1979
Designated NHL May 16, 2000
Designated CP January 4, 2008

The Rockingham Meeting House, also known as Old North Meeting House and First Church in Rockingham, is a historic civic and religious building on Meeting House Road in Rockingham, Vermont, United States. The Meeting House was built between 1787 and 1801 and was originally used for both Congregational church meetings as well as civic and governmental meetings. Church services ceased in 1839 but town meetings continued to be held in it until 1869. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2000 as an exceptionally well-preserved "second period" colonial-style meeting house. The building, owned by the town, is available for weddings and other events under rules established by the town.

Description and history

The Rockingham Meeting House is set on the north side of Meeting House Road, on a parcel of land about 4 acres (1.6 ha) in size that it shares with the town's original burial ground, whose oldest marked graves date to 1776. Meeting House Road is the location of Rockingham's original town center, laid out after the French and Indian War ended in 1763. The building is a large two-story timber-frame structure, with a side-gable roof, clapboard siding, and a granite foundation. The main (south-facing) facade is five bays wide, with a symmetrical but slightly irregular placement of windows around the center entry. The main entrance is flanked by pilasters and topped by an entablature and triangular pediment. Enclosed two-story gable-roofed stairwell ells extend from the each side of the building, with a similarly-decorated south-facing entrance. The main entrance opens into a central hallway, through a floor filled with box pews to the pulpit area, which features the original sounding board. The second-floor gallery, which wraps around three sides of the building, is also lined with box pews. The elevated pulpit area is 7 feet (2.1 m) wide, and is accessed by stairs on its left side. The pulpit is one of the few unoriginal elements of the building having been restored in 1906. The only other significant alterations have been to replace windows.

The town of Rockingham was first settled by white settlers after the French and Indian War ended in 1763. Discussion around the construction of a meeting house began in 1771, and culminated in the construction of a building at this site in 1774. That building remained in use until the construction of this one, which was approved by the town meeting in 1787. Documentation is unclear about when the building was completed: the first recorded town meeting was held in this building in 1792, at which time it was not complete. The town in that year approved use of the building by local Christian congregations for services.

The various church congregations built their own buildings over the ensuing years, with the original Congregational group ending its services in 1838. The building continued to be used for town meetings until a new town hall was constructed in Bellows Falls in 1869. The original pulpit was removed about 1850, and most of the original benches lining the pulpit area were removed. Although the building was vacant for many years, its exterior was maintained. The interior was subjected to vandalism and the theft of artifacts, including door hardware and hand-cut nails.

After being unused for many years, it was restored by the town in 1906, and the first Old Home Day and Pilgrimage to the Meeting House was held in August, 1907. It narrowly escaped the fire which burned much of the adjacent Rockingham Village on April 14, 1908. A Meeting House Association was formed in 1911 through the efforts of Professor Franklin Hooper, director of the Museum of the Brooklyn Institute. Hooper was the great-great-grandson of one of the original members of the First Church of Rockingham at its organization in 1773.

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2000. It is an extremely well-preserved example of a "second period" colonial meeting house, in which the principal entrance was on the long wall, and is placed in a setting reminiscent of how it would have appeared at the time of its construction. Its landmark designation includes the building, cemetery, and receiving tomb.

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