Preservation (Work in Progress)

The West Fairlee Center Church was officially entered on the National Register Historic Site on June 21, 2002. The Registry application process started in 1988. The architectural significance of the church is that it typifies many of the characteristics of the Greek Revival architectural style. The first house of worship was built in 1811 and replaced by the present building in 1855 for a cost of $2000.

The following detailed description of the church was provided by Jack Anderson/HeritageLink.

"The building is a 40'x 50', post and beam framed, gable roofed, clapboarded structure set on a low unmortared rubblestone foundation. The foundation is capped by vertical granite slabs above grade.

The church is oriented so that the double entry doors, located on either side of the gable end, face southward down the valley and Middlebrook Road. Each entry features a classical door surround with entablature, topped by an 8/8 window. The gable end also has a triangular gable fan, pediment, corner pilasters, and full entablature in the Greek Revival style. Between the entries on the first floor is a tall, 20/20 window flanked by long, louvered shutters.

Large, multiple pane windows along both eave sides of the church provide light to the sanctuary. The church has a louvered steeple, topped with a hexagonal spire."

Restoration of 1973

One of the first major projects in recent times was the steeple restoration in 1973. In a Valley News article, title: ‘West Fairlee Center Residents Striving to Save Their Church’ written at the time covered the steeple restoration project. The article stated that the 15 church members set out to raise $20,000 to restore parts of the foundation and the steeple which the church members feared would tumble from the roof.

Within the article is a story of the last (1949) restoration:

“One parishioner, saying he was an old sinner, regularly excused himself from services, predicted the church would fall down if he ever entered. When it was time for his funeral his casket was brought in and sure enough, the rotted floor fell through…When the floor caved in, in 1949, the last renovation began, Church members bent their backs and raised money for a new floor, an electric organ and an altar.”

Photo of Rick Eaton Photo of steeple

The Valley News Article continues that buried in the cemetery next to the church is the true founder of the West Fairlee Center Church, Nathaniel Niles. Niles, a judge and one of Vermont's first two Representative to Congress in 1791, was also a minister. Niles lies under a huge pryamid-shaped gravestone, which, like the eye atop the pyramid on a dollar bill's back, looks down on the surrounding scene.The vision is the church, comfortably settled for now in Meadowbrook Valley in the heart of West Fairlee Center.

Graveyard
Restoration Beginning 1999

In 1999 with the realization that the Church was again in a critical state, Doris Honig wrote in the Annual Church Letter: “Looking back only a generation, to the steeple crisis, replaced in 1973, we can see that it created a spiritual renewal, for during the 60’s there were years when no services (or only one) were held. We appreciate anew that generation which sprang forward when the steeple threatened to fall…Everyone contributed in one way or another and shared the work as well as the excitement of the arrival of the new steeple. All of these friends were THE CHURCH. The building which they worked to restore is a much-loved shelter, filled with memories and associations of all sorts.”

Since 1999, a small group of members (now less than 15), set out to raise funds to restore the Church. The restorations were extensive. Through their hard work, the Church has been beautifully preserved. However, it is hoped that restoration does not reach a crisis situation in the future. Any building and one that is over 160 years old will always need maintenance to keep this National Historic Site in good condition.