Rocky Hill Meeting House

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Rocky Hill Meeting House in Amesbury, Massachusetts

Rocky Hill Meeting House is one of the best preserved examples of an original eighteenth-century meeting house interior. It was built in 1785, replacing a c. 1715 meeting house for the West Parish of Salisbury. Rocky Hill Meeting House was strategically placed along the only road that crossed the swift Powow River (via ferry) and led travelers to the Salisbury Point area, and then onward toward Portsmouth. In fact, George Washington paused here to greet the townspeople on his northward journey in 1789.

With the beginnings of industrialization and improved access into the region around 1800, a new mill town arose on the banks of the Powow. Geographically trapped between the successful mill town to the west and the coastal fishing and farming communities to the east and south, the West Parish quickly found itself with a congregation that was steadily drifting away. The resulting economic stress, coupled with new ideas about religion and architecture, and the construction of two new churches in the area, led to regular religious services at the meeting house coming to an end by the 1840s.

The interior of Rocky Hill Meeting House in Amesbury, Massachusetts

The fact that Rocky Hill Meeting House has served no active congregation since the mid-nineteenth century led to its remarkable state of preservation. Eighteenth-century hardware remains intact throughout the building. The marbleized pulpit and pillars supporting the upper galleries still boast their original paint. Historic New England acquired the property in 1941 to safeguard the fragile building for future generations.

Open
2013 Schedule

July 6, 12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
December 7, 12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

The Rocky Hill Meeting House is a Historic New England property.

 


Top photo: Rocky Hill Meeting House exterior - Situated on a rocky ledge, the Rocky Hill Meeting House is a quintessential example of early American public architecture. Built in 1785 in Salisbury, Massachusetts, it accommodated the two central elements of New England society: church services and town meetings. Today, this remarkably untouched meeting house is one of the few that survive with an intact interior. Recent research on the history of Rocky Hill Meeting House explains why the building remains so well preserved and reveals some of the complex issues that affected New England communities in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Bottom photo: Rocky Hill Meeting House interior - Today, the Rocky Hill Meeting House stands near two major highways, far from the town centers of Salisbury and Amesbury, an incongruous presence in a very modern setting. Over time, the building's isolated location contributed to the loss of its congregation. But its out-of-the-way site also helped preserve it almost completely intact for more than 215 years. It remains a powerful reminder of a time when community life centered on a plain, wooden building - a symbol of the faith that was the foundation of New England.