14 Sep 2014
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Uniquely Medfield: Sacred Homes

A weekly column by Town Historian Richard DeSorgher.

Uniquely Medfield: Sacred Homes Uniquely Medfield: Sacred Homes Uniquely Medfield: Sacred Homes Uniquely Medfield: Sacred Homes Uniquely Medfield: Sacred Homes Uniquely Medfield: Sacred Homes Uniquely Medfield: Sacred Homes Uniquely Medfield: Sacred Homes Uniquely Medfield: Sacred Homes Uniquely Medfield: Sacred Homes

 

Throughout Medfield’s history, religion has been in important piece of the Medfield fabric; starting with the First Parish Church, whose roots follow the very founding of the town, to the First Baptist Church in the 18th Century, followed by the Congregational Church, today’s United Church of Christ, and St. Edward Catholic Church in the 19th Century to the Episcopal, Church of the Advent, in 1905.

The ministers and priests who served the churches over the years have influenced those of us in Medfield and have contributed much to the town. In most cases, they become town residents and volunteer and interact with the civic and social life of the town. Each had a special home here in Medfield, usually provided by the church, in which to live.  The following looks at the parsonages and rectories that still stand today and continue to play an important part of our history and town-wide appearance.

First Parish Parsonage “UU-House”

Located next to First Parish Unitarian-Universalist Meetinghouse, on 26 North Street, is the parsonage, commonly known as the "UU-House." No longer housing its ministers, the UU-House serves as the Parish Education Center and church office.

In 1889, the church formed a building committee with the goal of building a new parsonage. The committee consisted of Col. Edward V. Mitchell, owner of the Excelsior Hat Factory, James Hewins, Hamlet Wight and William P. Hewins. They were given full authority to proceed in the matter of design and in the actual building of the parsonage.

Local contractor N. Frank Harding was hired to complete the actual work.  It was reported in the local newspapers that on December 19, 1891, that contractor Harding had finished putting the final touches to the parsonage. The first minister to live in the parsonage was Rev. William W. Hayward. One hundred and twenty-one years later, the historic structure sits nestled into the church lot gracing Medfield’s oldest church building, dating to 1789.

Baptist Parsonage

The oldest of the three remaining Baptist homes is located on 22 Pleasant Street. The original Baptist Meetinghouse was located on West Main Street with its parsonage build on the site of today’s Needham Bank. In 1838, the congregation sold the meetinghouse and built a new church on the land purchased at the corner of South and Main Street, where the present structure stands. Shortly thereafter, the Main Street parsonage was sold and the home of the Baptist ministers had a new address, closer to the church, on 22 Pleasant Street.  The historic home today serves as a private residence. It also remains the oldest of the remaining parsonages standing.  

In 1880, the church built a new parsonage at 411 Main Street, on the east northeast corner of Brook Street. The historic 411 Main Street home is located on the original 1650 land grant of George Barber. In later years, the house was sold as a private residence. In 1893, the Historical Society placed Native-American named plaques on historic houses around the town. This house was given the name Quinnapin. In the 1930s, the house had a public tea room. It has been beautifully restored and landscaped and is a private residence today.

Six years later, the house was sold and the Baptist Church built yet another parsonage, which serves as the current parsonage today for Pastor Jonathan Chechile and his family. Located on the southeast corner of South Street and Hale Place, the 126-year-old home blends in beautifully with the historic character that is South Street.

Parsonage of the United Church of Christ

On September 21, 1876, the Orthodox Congregational Church (today’s United Church of Christ), with all its contents, was totally destroyed by fire. A new church was quickly rebuilt and dedicated on August 7, 1877.  In the fall of 1879, the church built a parsonage on land adjoining the meetinghouse, at the cost of $2,632, of which member F.D. Ellis contributed $2,160.  Rev. Pratt was the first to move into the parsonage when it was completed.  

As the church entered the 1980s, plans were developed to enlarge the church. Landlocked and in need of building space, the church decided to have the church expansion extend into the location of the parsonage. Knowing the historic value of the structure, the congregation saved the parsonage by moving it to church-held property on 15 Brook Street. Today the former parsonage has been saved and successfully acts as office space.                 

St. Edward Rectory

The current St. Edward rectory sits tucked into the pines and rhododendrons behind the church on 133 Spring Street. Built in 1980, when the church moved from its original Main Street location opposite Town Hall, the rectory was built with energy saving measures in mind. Here Rev. Leroy Owens lives and the structure contains space available for visiting priests.  

The original St. Edward rectory, located on Main Street, has a great story to its history: With just one dollar in his pocket, James Tubridy was on his way to buy his favorite chewing tobacco when he was stopped by his parish priest, Rev. John McCool of St. Edward Church. Father McCool, who served as pastor at St. Edward from 1923 to 1930, had just one raffle ticket left for the raffling off of the soon-to-be-replaced rectory that stood next to St. Edward Church on Main Street.

Father McCool had plans to replace the nearly 100-year-old wooden rectory with a new modern brick structure. To help pay for the cost, the Church had come up with a fundraising idea to raffle off the wooden rectory. For a one-dollar raffle ticket, you could win yourself an entire house. The only catch was you would have to have it moved off the property to another site. James would have much preferred to buy his chewing tobacco but divine pressure by Father McCool persuaded parishioner Tubridy to spend his last dollar on the raffle ticket. By divine intervention or just plain luck, Jim Tubridy was the winner of the rectory. In 1926, the 1830 structure, built by Samuel Johnson, was moved to 42 Green Street, where it is still a residence today.

The house had been purchased by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston for use as a church rectory for the original St. Edward Church when it was built in 1892. Once the Johnson house was moved from Main Street to its new Green Street address, a modern brick rectory was built which served as home for the priests of St. Edward up until the property was sold in 1980 and the new St. Edward opened on Spring Street.

The Town of Medfield purchased the property and linked the brick rectory into an extension to the town library. By 1997, the library had outgrown the rectory space. By vote of Town Meeting, the former brick rectory was demolished. In its place, the current larger three-story library addition was built.

The 1830 Johnson/St. Edward house on 42 Green Street, across from the Hinkley Swim Pond, has undergone recent renovations. The home is an altered example of a Greek revival-style house. It is one of many examples of homes in Medfield that have been moved and another example of how history can be saved rather than destroyed.

Church of the Advent Parsonage

The Church of the Advent Rectory at 53 South Street is a 2.5 story, stately Colonial Revival-style residential building constructed in 1924. Located on the northwest corner of Oak and South Streets, it was built for George and Marian Pierce. It later was obtained by the Church of the Advent for use as their parsonage and has remained in ownership by the Episcopal Church ever since.

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