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Preservation groups seeks feedback about former Bath church

Preservation groups seeks feedback about former Bath church

BATH — To spread awareness of the Winter Street Center and gain input about how best to use it, Sagadahoc Preservation has opened the building for tours through next month.

Both the former church and its adjoining parish hall, at 880 Washington St., are open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Admission is free.

Visitors can see an exhibit about the architecture of the structures, which was adapted through the years to meet the congregation's needs.

While the past is a big part of the exhibit, so is the future. Sagadahoc Preservation is looking for ways the facility, which has not been used as a church  for many years, can continue to serve as a community center.

The roof and steeple of the structure have been replaced, but the former sanctuary still needs significant work, including ceiling replacement, and is not being used for public events.

"We got some grants and had an architectural assessment done," said Jane Morse, a trustee of Sagadahoc Preservation. "Now we need to raise the money to have an engineering assessment done. Obviously we have to bring it up to current codes. ... We're raising money to do those studies."

Renovation could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, she said.

The sanctuary was once the largest auditorium in Bath, where events like high school graduations were held, Morse said.

According to a recent Sagadahoc Preservation news release, Anthony Coombs Raymond, a master builder in Brunswick, designed and built the church in 1843. He blended his Gothic Revival design with classical, Greek Revival motifs, and the result is today listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Architect John Calvin Stevens crafted interior alterations in 1890 and 1913, and Bath native Francis Fassett created the Italianate-style parish hall in 1864. Now known as the Diane C. Francis Room, to honor of one of Winter Street's major longtime benefactors, the restored hall can be rented for events like parties and meetings, according to Morse.

The merging of the Winter Street and Central church congregations led to construction of a new church on Congress Avenue, putting the former church structures in danger of being demolished or sold. But Sagadahoc Preservation formed in 1971 to save the Winter Street building; two years later the building was transferred the Bath Marine Museum.

Sagadahoc Preservation also saved the Central Church, which is known today as the Chocolate Church Arts Center.

The marine museum, which used the Winter Street building for lectures and exhibits, became the Maine Maritime Museum and eventually consolidated its four sites at the former Percy & Small shipyard, and transferred the old church back to Sagadahoc Preservation.

Log onto sagadahocpreservation.org or call 443-2174 for more information.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.