New Hampshire Baptist church registered as historic place

May 8, 2019

BOW, N.H. (AP) — In all the years since Bow Baptist Church was built in 1832, the building has stood strong even as its bones have aged.

Some modifications to the church’s interior have been made along the way, but the majority of the structure contains the original materials used to build the church that sits on a small hill along Branch Londonderry Turnpike East.

“They built it quite well,” said the Rev. Richard Huntley, who has served as the church’s pastor for 28 years.

But in a storm last summer, lightning struck the church steeple and started a fire. Firefighters prevented the flames from spreading to the rest of the church, but the interior beneath the steeple sustained heavy water damage.

Huntley said they hope to be back in the church by July 2020, and in the meantime, the congregation continues to gather in the church’s basement, which also has a preschool, while the main hall undergoes restoration.

This week, the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources added Bow Baptist Church to the state register of historic places, a status that makes the church eligible for funding for projects to maintain the church’s structure.

The recognition also reaffirms the church’s significance to the town’s history.

The church was built under the ministry of the Rev. William Boswell, who was succeeded by the Rev. Henry Archibald, according to a town history compiled by the Bow Heritage Commission.

Archibald was an abolitionist who eventually became the leader of the town’s antislavery movement. Huntley said the church’s nearby parsonage was an Underground Railroad safe house in the mid-19th century. It is believed, he said, that the church would to signal to escaped slaves if the area was safe by changing the direction of its weather vane atop the steeple.

The steeple, destroyed in the lightning strike in July, is being restored to its original appearance, Huntley said, with builders using an old photograph as a guide. He said some old finials were found stored up in the steeple and will be added back to the church’s exterior.

“It’s going to be everything it should be once again,” he said.

The church was one of three buildings in the area to catch fire by lightning within an hour of each other on July 17. A few weeks later, a lightning strike ignited a fire in the cupola of the Hopkinton Town Library, which continues to undergo restoration.

In April, a fire broke out in the wooden attic of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris that burned two-thirds of its roof and brought down its iconic spire. The event sent shockwaves through communities around the world, including groups of faith in the Concord area.

In the days following the Notre-Dame fire, several faith leaders in Concord spoke to the Monitor about what place a building holds in religion. Many shared the view that it is important to maintain and honor the building where they worship, but it is the people who make the church, whether they meet in a grand building or an old town hall.

It is a sentiment that Huntley also expressed in an interview Thursday.

“It’s the people who matter, not the building,” Huntley said. “However, the goal is to keep the building in great condition because it’s a valuable piece of history, and you don’t want to lose that.”

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Information from: Concord Monitor, http://www.concordmonitor.com