South Congregational Church
In 1824, a new Meetinghouse was built overlooking the Kennebunk River to accommodate the growing population in Kennebunkport village. It was open with tall box pews, a two-story pulpit, wide galleries or balconies on three sides, with the organ and choir in the rear. The tower clock, which came to be known as the town clock, was made in Boston by Aaron Willard Jr. and was a gift from Eliphalet Perkins, Joseph Perkins, and Simon Nowell.
A new congregation was formed in 1838 and the Meetinghouse was renamed South Congregational Church. By 1843, due to a severe drop in membership, a dividing floor was installed, the sanctuary remaining on the lower level.
There was still no shipyard next to the church. Brothers, Daniel and Stephen Ward purchased the land next to South Congregational Church from Ephriam Perkins on March 25, 1851. The fully rigged ship Chas. Humberston was likely the first vessel launched from the “new” D&S Ward Shipyard. She was the largest vessel ever built on the Kennebunk River, at the time, with a capacity of 1099.74 tons and a price tag of $60,000.
The sanctuary was moved upstairs in 1875 and new, smaller pews were installed. Temple Hall was configured on the first floor. Frescoes were added to the sanctuary area in 1881. Carriage sheds were added to the north side of the church around 1893 and in 1899 memorial windows commemorating charter members of the congregation were installed.
In 1912, Abbott Graves read a letter from Henry Parsons and family to the congregation, which proposed to finance the “improvement of the front of the church building, if acceptable to the parish.” It was acceptable and the beautiful columned portico that we see today was added.
WWI servicemen from Kennebunkport, Lower Village, and North Kennebunkport were welcomed home with an elaborate celebration under the portico at South Congregational Church on September 1, 1919. Judge Luques presented bronze medals to those who had served their country. The medals were used as free passes to all events of the day. Edna F Wells was the only woman so honored in Kennebunkport that day and thanks to Phyllis Cluff, former treasurer for the American Legion Auxiliary to Post 159, Edna’s medal has been preserved.
The chancel area of the church was redone in 1956, and the lower level was remodeled in 1969. The Noack pipe organ was installed and dedicated in 2004. Built in Georgetown, MA it was offered as an anonymous gift from a most generous donor.
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