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After Restoration, Allenstown To Celebrate 200th Birthday Of Meeting House

A celebration is planned for Saturday at the Old Allenstown Meeting House to celebrate the building’s 200th anniversary.

It will also be the first open house at the building in a decade, which has been closed while restoration efforts were underway.

A fire in 1985 caused significant damage to the building’s roof and several pews. The restoration cost nearly $200,000, a project paid for through private donations and grants.

Armand Verville is president of the Allenstown Historical Society. He met up with NHPR's Morning Edition at the Meeting House to talk about the history of the building and plans for this weekend’s festivities.

Do you know of any other meeting houses of this age that are still being used?

That’s an interesting question because it is the only single story meeting house with a slanted floor that has been restored and is still in existence.

Can you explain what you mean by slanted floor?

It has theater-style seating, so that the center of the building is down on a flat surface and then on both sides of the building the pews graduate as you move back. That way folks can see the pulpit and the center of the building from wherever they’re sitting. There’s no real blind spot out there.

And this would have been the center for town politics, the center for town religious services, really the center of town period.

This was the center of town until the mills were built. This was the absolute center. There was little or nothing; a couple of farms down there in the village as we know it today where the Allenstown Elementary School is built. That was one of the bigger farms in town. That was all farm country, as well. But as far as politics and church, everything was down right out here.

As we look around the room, I can see that you’ve placed signs or tags with names of the original families that owned these seats. Can you explain what that is about?

When they were trying to raise money, the richer families bought these box pews at $20 each. At 15 box pews, that raised the $300 and that was enough to complete the building at that time. We did some research on some of the family names and came up with tidbits of information from old town records. Allenstown never had an actual history. We used a memorandum written around 1900. Although it’s not an official history, it’s probably the only documents we have from back then. All of these families were land owners, politicians or farm owners.

Tell me a little bit about how you’re going to celebrate the restoration on Saturday.

Around 9 a.m., we’re going to begin with a non-denominational church service. Around 10:30, Jim Garvin, who’s a retired state architectural historian is going to give us a talk on the history of the meeting house as well as the local area. Around 11 a.m., the Board of Selectmen will hold a mock meeting with items that may have been of importance back in those days. And all day, the children are going to be able to play games at the back of the meeting house that would have been played back in the 1800s. We’re going to show them it’s not all about iPads and computers; that back in those days, the kids had fun, too.

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