Historic Structures

First Congregational Church, Vermontville Michigan

Date added: May 9, 2011 Categories: Michigan Church

The First Congregational Church of Vermontville was constructed during the Civil War and dedicated on November 30, 1864, It was built to meet the needs of the Union Colony, a religiously bonded group which had settled in Vermontville in 1837, The Colony was formed in East Poultney, Vermont, and the church is quite similar to various prototypes found in New England. This is especially true in the roof framing, which is of a type in common use in that area in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The village of Vermontville was settled by a group of pioneers from East Poultney, Vermont, who were followers of the Rev. Sylvester Cochrane, a Congregational minister. The church was organized on February 28, 1838, and the Deacon Church, a log structure, was used for services. Soon a log schoolhouse was built and it was used for services. In 1844 a two-story building was constructed and served as an academy and a church. Rev. Orange H. Spoor came to the pastorate in 1861 and remained in charge until 1872.

He graduated from Oberlin and was less conservative than the usual run of ministers of that date ... Under his pastorate the society made rapid growth, and gave indications of breaking away from its earlier Calvinistic moorings and traditions. A commodious church edifice was built during the early part of his service.

The building is Wood frame one story with gallery and tower; rectangular plan, 68'-7" by 40'-0" plus tower; five bays long by three bays wide. The front faces east.

At the center of the east front is a square tower, with a spire, which projects about half its depth beyond the main wall of the building. On its forward corners are buttresses similar to those on the corners of the building, except that they are several feet higher and terminate in gablets.

The main stage of this tower extends several feet above the ridge of the roof, and is terminated by a simple three-piece entablature, whose frieze projects beyond the architrave. On the corners, above the tops of the buttresses (and on the rear corners, above the roof), are narrow plain pilasters with simple capitals.

The second stage is the belfry, with corner pilasters and an entablature similar to the one just described, but smaller. On each face is a rectangular louvered opening with plain trim. The boarding of the belfry walls is flush; boards are 5" wide.

A bronze bell, cast by Meneely and Company, West Troy, New York, three feet in diameter at the rim, is suspended on a cast-iron yoke and has two cast-iron supports which are A-shaped. It is located slightly off axis in the east half of the belfry. There is a wooden pulley 5'-7" in diameter. The supports of the bell rest on a rectangular horizontal frame made of 5" x 7" timbers; this in turn rests on two girders spanning the tower from north to south. One is a solid piece 7 1/2" X 8"; the other is built up of four sawn 2" x 8" pieces. Near the top of the belfry are two hewn girts which straddle the center post, each being braced by two diagonal struts whose lower ends rest on the lower girts in the north and south walls. At mid height of the belfry a round pole about six inches in diameter springs from each corner to brace the center post about halfway up the spire.

Floor plans: The main floor consists of a rectangular auditorium with a platform at the west end and a vestibule at the east end; over the vestibule is a small balcony reached by a small stair at each end. The stair at the south is now unused, being covered by balcony flooring. A full basement is reached by a stair in the south half of the vestibule.

This church occupies a spacious site at the southwest corner of the intersection of the two main streets of the village. It faces east toward a small village common. There are no remaining accessory buildings nor formal landscaping. The ground is nearly level.