White, gable-roofed churches with tall steeples are anchors in Vermont’s villages, historically and visually. Small towns often have more than one church, speaking to a time when people attended churches and community meetings in greater numbers. In modern day Vermont, these large buildings remain in the same small villages, whose populations and budgets are fading. As you can see in Abandoned Vermont posts, some are empty, and others are used only seasonally:
- Clarendon Church (vacant)
- South Ryegate Church (status unknown, but sold in 2016)
- Simonsville Meeting House (seasonal use)
- Bloomfield Church (recent comments indicate it’s now a music venue)
- Highgate Falls Church (seasonal use)
- Hubbardton Church (storage only)
Seasonal churches are used in the summer when the building does not need to be heated and lack of electricity, perhaps, is not a hindrance to use. Buildings closed up for the winters are not uncommon in the colder climates; many summer camps and cottages are winterized and sit alone for the winter months.
Union Church in New Haven Mills, VT is one of the seasonal churches. For decades it was used once per summer month for a church service, and the occasional special event.
Union Church was constructed in 1851 as a church and meeting house to accommodate the growing community of New Haven Mills. Local craftsman Eastman Case constructed the building; his study of Asher Benjamin is evident in his design. Union Church is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a well-preserved example of a wood frame Greek Revival style church with features that including the temple-front gable entrance, corner pilaster, full entablature and pediments, oversized windows, and interior details. The Queen Anne style belfry was added ca. 1880.
The 20th century brought floods and fire to the community, which led to the demise of the town and its lumber industry. The church sat empty throughout the 1930s, until Burt Rolfe, a Middlebury College student, took on the role of caretaker and preacher. Mr. Rolfe died in World War II. Neighbors, Langdon and Colleen Smith began taking care of the building and holding one monthly summer service for the next 40 years. When the Smiths died, neighbors continued to maintain the building. The church survived because of the neighbors and the community’s efforts to host events, raise money, and preserve the building. (Read the project file here for additional info.)
The Preservation Society of the Union Church of New Haven has continued repairs as part of the long-term preservation project since the 1990s. In 1997, the Preservation Society applied for and received a grant from the Division for Historic Preservation to stabilize the foundation and paint the building. In 2011, the Preservation Society received another grant to repair the 20/20 double hung windows.
It’s a beautiful building in a striking setting, overlooking the small village of New Haven Mills and set adjacent to the Lampson School. However, buildings are meant to used and if they stand in year-round communities with only seasonal use, there is lost potential. Keeping a building seasonal allows the greatest amount of preservation. No wiring is needed; the building needs to be maintained, but not altered or disturbed. However, in our cold climate, that limits the months. And what a shame to not be able to use this building all year round. Perhaps minimal modernization and addition of systems would be worth it in order to use the building.
It’s a good preservation theory discussion. What do you think? If there is use, keep the buildings as-is for the warm seasons or disturb them for year-round use?
14 thoughts on “Seasonal Buildings: Union Church in New Haven Mills”
Great post! These are beautiful, classic building. I’ll often make a detour just to drive past them.
Thank you! I love a detour, too.
It is amazing to me that the community was so invested as to continue it for so long without any real support other than each other. We do not see a great deal of that these days, or at least, if it occurs, we seldom learn of it.
Same! Such extended commitment is unusual.
Churches have become the enemy yet they showcase such a show of strength and these older church buildings display just that
What a beautiful structure. Great post.
Thank you! I love such serendipitous finds!
I filmed the church yesterday for my YouTube channel. Link here, in case you’re interested in how it looks now: https://youtu.be/6Hu4Z8WcW_Q You’ll be happy to know it’s all painted! The interior walls have plaster missing in large patches. So, that’s a shame. If you’re interested in my photos, please check them out on Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/travelingforhistory.
I absolutely LOVE this blog!! I decided to film the church due to this. Anything newer to hit here??? Thanks for offering this FABULOUS blog!!
thank you so much for the kind words and for the update on the church! I don’t post much these days – my young kids and my work keep me very busy. But I keep this site around and hope to add more as I find the time.
Ahh…little kids and work! I understand. 🙂
Your site I found by accident maybe last year? It’s fabulous! I included its link on my website about the church. I’m going to return to New Haven to record the Lampson School. Spoiler alert: it looks great! Another beautiful building!
Are you working in the HP field?
This is a delayed response, but, yes, I work in the HP field. I’m a Preservation Planner with VHB – an engineering and environmental firm. Most of my work is related to Section 106 and Section 4(f) – I specialize in transportation projects. how about you?
Ugh. It doesn’t appear my response made it through.
I’m glad you’re working on your field. That’s pretty wonderful. I used to teach. I’ve sold online and am gearing up to do so again. I have plenty of stock still. And I now film YouTube videos.
I was in Addison a few weeks ago to film the Community Baptist Church. And right next door was the Addison Town Hall. I was looking online for some info on it and up popped your blog. I used information from it (and credited you) in my video. I did a full walkaround. That building needs some love! I’m going to reach out to the president of the Historical Society. Maybe he’d like to offer an interior tour of the place! If so, I’d like to invite you to join us. If you’re interested, of course.
That building does need some love! I’ve been in it for a graduate school project way back when. I think the Preservation Trust of Vermont is working with the Historical Society now – it’d be so great to see something positive for the building and the Town! And it could be something exciting to film!
Totally agree! Losing it would be far worse for the town than they likely fathom.
Exciting to hear the Preservation Trust of Vermont is working with the Historical Society! Great things can happen with that kind of partnership.
I do love to film interiors!