This is the Second Meeting House, which stood where the First Parish Church now stands on Main Street, next to the Training Green. It served not only as the second building to house the First Parish, but also as the center of Kingston’s town government before the original Town House was built. We know a few things about it. There is the drawing above. There are written descriptions. Doris Johnson, in Major Bradford’s Town, gives the specifics of the 1798 “plans for a structure 60 feet by 55 feet and 25 feet high, with ‘projectments to be 10 feet added’.” Further, she quotes Sarah Bailey in Civic Progress.
This was the large meeting house with the two belfries known to this generation only by pictures…It was unique in its exterior form, but inside it was a typical New England meeting house with high pulpit and sounding board, galleries on three sides, and square pews with doors and the seats that were raised while the congregation stood during the long prayer.
Mrs. Bailey’s generation may have known the Second Meeting House by pictures, but viewers in this century knew only the one drawing and the words.
Until last week…
Part of a large new collection, the heavy celluloid negative from which this scan was made is a copy because film negatives did not appear until the 1880s, but the building was demolished in 1851. This image might even have been made before 1841, when the Old Town House was built: it would have stood to the right and behind the Second Meeting House in this view. That may be the sum of what we will ever know about this negative. Still for all the questions and all the unknowns, we now have a photograph that once disappeared into history, but has now emerged.