Newport, New Hampshire

Dedicated in March 1823, the South Congregational Church of Newport is a prime example of Federal style architecture, showing the widespread influence of Charles Bulfinch and Asher Benjamin as interpreted by two regional designer/builders: Elias Carter of Worcester (MA) and Isaac Damon of Northampton (MA). 

The church at Newport has two distinct precedents: its body and clock tower closely resemble Damon's brick church at Greenfield (MA) built in 1819, and its steeple replicates the 1821 Carter-style structure at Acworth (NH). The synthesis of the two produced an entirely new form—simple, well-proportioned, and finely detailed.

Newport's meetinghouse, with soaring arcades and unique ornamentation, was framed in 1822 by master carpenter John Leach of Dunbarton (NH). The salmon-colored bricks were manufactured locally and laid by a team of masons directed by John Silver of Newport (NH). The minister at the time was the Rev. James Wheelock, grandson of Dartmouth College founder Eleazar Wheelock.

Privately financed, the cost of Newport's construction is unknown. It must have exceeded the $8,000 paid in 1824 by the Baptist congregation in Concord (NH) for a smaller brick church by the same builder. The wooden, Templeton-style churches generally cost between $6,000 and $7,000. Newport's brick construction, therefore, may have increased the expense to its building committee by 30% or more. After selling a limited number of pews to individual members and the Society, the building committee sold the meetinghouse to the Congregational Church in 1827 for $500.

Architectural historians identify Newport's church as the northernmost in the "Templeton Run" of similarly-steepled churches—though it is the only brick building among them. The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

© New Hampshire Steeples, 2012