Building History

Built in 1887 ...

...the Methodist Episcopal Church is the only building in Berlin that wholly exhibits the Gothic revival style of the Victorian era. Berlin Center itself is a wonderful mix of First Period, Greek Revival, Italianate and Victorian buildings. The church may have been built according to a pre-existing plan provided by the Methodist Episcopal Church movement as congregations sprang up in rural communities. Two similarly built structures are located in Ferrisburgh, Vermont and Cumberland, Rhode Island. 

Victorian Gothic ...

... styling is exemplified in the church’s steeply gabled tower, applied molding, elaborate corner posts, gable verge boards, copper peak ornaments, a patterned masonry chimney at the northwest corner(removed during renovation), and elongated windows with peaked lintel trim.

Three courses of wall cladding ...

... are present from top to bottom, with toothed shingles sloping outward to clapboards at mid-section; fish scale shingles continue at the lower section. Remains of a multi-colored paint scheme survive from 1976, with body colors of white and yellow, red and white trim and green shutters. 

Decorative windows ...

... one triangular and the other tripartite, are located above the gabled north and south entrances. A round window with club-shaped interior framing faces Carter Street and a round window with interior cross-hatched framing looks out over the building’s back or east side. The original window on the eastern end of the building was stained glass and installed as a memorial to the Woodward brothers in 1924. After the church was sold in 1941, the window was removed and placed in the face of the Echo Organ at the rear of the auditorium in First Parish Church, also located in Berlin Center, Massachusetts. 

Massachusetts Historical Commission

The Old Methodist Episcopal Church was inventoried for the Massachusetts Historical Commission along with many other buildings in the late 1960’s by Barry Eager, Katherine Ann Bacon and other members of the Berlin Art and Historical Society. Its MHC ID # is BRL 9. A reference to this listing can be found on MHC’s MACRIS database: Much later in 2009, Berlin Center, designated as Area D, was updated with current photographs and a revised data sheet by June Miller and Barry Eager. The Massachusetts Historical Commission declared Berlin Center eligible for nomination as a National Register Historic District. The Old Methodist Episcopal Church is a contributing building to this potential National Register Historic District. 

Historical Uses

Built in 1887

In April 1856, Reverend Gardner Rice, then principal of the Berlin Academy, established a Methodist Episcopal Church after holding prayer and class meetings, as well as preaching services. Meetings were held in the hall over Riley Smith’s blacksmith shop, in the old Town House on the common and for a time at the “new” (1870) Town Hall. Construction of the Methodist Episcopal Church was begun and completed in 1887; the cornerstone was laid in June with a sermon by Reverend Dr. George S. Chadbourne and the building dedicated on December 20th with a sermon preached by Reverend William N. Brodbeck. 

for $4,000

 It was built on the site of the Parker Shoe Factory, which had burned in 1882. The church originally cost $4,000. At the time of its dedication, a debt of only $1,600 remained unpaid; of this total, $600 was raised in 1889 through the efforts of Reverend J. W. Barter, and the remaining $1,000 was secured in 1892 during the pastorate of Reverend S. K. Smith. A grand jubilee service was held in celebration of the church’s freedom from debt on January 19, 1893, with Reverend Chadbourne, a presiding elder, preaching the sermon.

Services suspended in WWI

During World War I, services were suspended, as many of the Church’s young men had entered military service. For three years (1918-1921), local members worshiped in neighboring churches. At an official Quarterly Conference in 1921, it was voted to resume services.Under the leadership of the Reverend Edson G. Waterhouse, new life came into the Church and the community. A great remodeling program was conducted, both among their constituency and in their church building. 

Church discontinued in 1940

 Perhaps in anticipation of another war (as suggested by F. A. Krackhardt in his History of the Town of Berlin), the congregation dwindled to ten persons (seven on the average) after 1935. At an official meeting of the Church on May 4, 1940, it was voted “to discontinue the services in the Church” and “that the sale of the Church property be left in the hands of the Trustees.” 

Sold to E. Guy Sawyer

The building was sold to E. Guy Sawyer in 1941. The pews and altar furnishings were donated to the Methodist Church of Clinton, and the invested funds ($2,481.69) were given to The Preacher’s Aid Society of the New England Conference as a memorial in the name of the men and women who served in the ministry of the Berlin Methodist Church. 

Estate auctions held on site

E. Guy Sawyer has since used the building for storage in connection with his well-known auctions, which he holds on the grounds … It is in rather sad condition but has lately become increasingly popular with artists. It is now probably the most “painted” subject in Berlin.  Bacon, Katharine Ann, “Old Methodist Church” Structure Survey, Massachusetts Historical Commission, January 1967.

The Commissioned window

Renovations in 1924 ...

... included installing a tin ceiling and a newly commissioned round stained glass window for the east wall.

The Woodward Memorial Window ...

... was installed and dedicated on April 13, 1924; which bears the following inscription: in loving memory of H. Wallace Woodward and C. Sumner Woodward who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War. This memorial window was removed after the church was sold in 1941 and installed in the face of the Echo Organ at the rear of the auditorium of the First Parish Church of Berlin.

Local stained glass artist Jeanne Kowal ...

... was commissioned to create a window to represent the vision of the new 19 Carter which was installed in November 2017. She incorporated the logo, the four seasons and images of activities held in the building.