CHESTERVILLE – On Christmas, an old, familiar sound fell on new ears: The Chesterville Center Union Meetinghouse bell.
The Meetinghouse’s board of directors rang the bell on Christmas morning, to recall the days when the meetinghouse played an important role in the life of the town, and to bring awareness to the role it could play in the future if all goes well.
There was a time when the sound of the meetinghouse bell was familiar to townspeople. Records show that the church bell was rung to call out volunteer workers when there was a fire or other emergency, to ring in the Fourth of July, and to signify the death of any resident of Chesterville. A 1966 newspaper article recalled “How joyously the old bell pealed on V.J. Day to announce the war was over.” Certainly it was also rung for Sunday services.
The building was built in 1851 to replace the former meeting house in Center Chesterville, which had been disassembled and carried away to North Chesterville, reportedly by disgruntled parishioners. Its use was mainly non-denominational for over a century, and seems to have been sporadic since the mid-1900s. It has not served Chesterville residents for roughly two decades and is currently unused due to structural problems.
The board is hoping to generate interest in the building’s potential sufficient to realize that potential.
“We see it as a great community resource for many uses, from weddings to talks, presentations, concerts, and other gatherings,” said Carolyn Drugge, board president. “It is the last historic building in the center of Chesterville, and its significant features and proportions cannot be replicated today. We feel we owe it to both the town’s future and past residents to preserve it while we can.”
Current plans and efforts by the board include preparation of an application for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, an application for tax-exempt status with the IRS so that charitable donations can be solicited, and a plan to reinforce the underpinnings of the building while working on raising sufficient funds to further restore the building.
The Board of the Chesterville Center Union Meeting House is interested in hearing ideas for fund-raising, as well as for future uses of the building. For information or to make suggestions, please contact Carolyn Drugge at 778-3767 or e-mail Cynthia.firstname.lastname@example.org.