Our first port of call on Saturday morning was the Abyssinian Meeting House ( 1827) at 75 Newbury Street in Portland, a wood-frame building erected between 1828 and 1831, and currently undergoing restoration. The Abyssinian Meeting House is recognized as the 3rd oldest surviving African American meeting house in the country. Portland’s African American community needed their own meeting house to worship without segregation.
The Abyssinian Meeting House was remodeled by the congregation after the Civil War, providing a place of worship, and a center for social, cultural and educational events. It closed in 1916; but after substantial renovation eight years later, the building was converted into tenement apartments, until 1991 when the building was condemned. The Committee to Restore the Abyssinian bought the former meetinghouse from the City of Portland in 1998 for back taxes, and currently owns the building.
Once inside we saw dramatic signs of a work in progress. Experienced folks with firsthand knowledge carrying out the restoration were able to explain the finer details to the VAF-NE group. Pictured here: wide view to back wall, the front wall, and roof framing.Click gallery above to start slide show
An interview with the John James, project architect for the restoration
- The Abyssinian Restoration Project
- NPS promotion for Abyssinian Meeting House during African American History Month 2013
- NR Nomination (28MB download)
- Wikipedia entry