Scituate Art Festival pays for church repainting, but lack of 2020 event hurts

Scituate Art Festival pays for church repainting, but lack of 2020 event hurts

The first layer of paint was scraped off the North Scituate Congregational Church on West Greenville Road this week, marking two weeks of painting of the historic building. (Breeze photos by Jacquelyn Moorehead)

SCITUATE – While a fresh coat of paint is being put on the Scituate Congregational Church on West Greenville Road, future projects remain unknown, as the project’s funder, the Scituate Art Festival, is canceled this year.

Public Works Director Kirk Loiselle said the festival repays the town for any approved work done at the church.

He said the newest project, a $50,000 paint job including priming and repainting three sides of the church, will be paid for by the festival. The building was last painted about a decade ago.

Next summer, Loiselle hoped to redo the roof on the historic building, but now he’s not sure if the festival will have funding for church projects and donating to local charities.

Each year, money raised by the festival is donated to the town for upkeep of the church, and around 30 smaller grants totaling $20,000 to $30,000 are given to local organizations and nonprofits.

“We don’t know what’s happening, how their funding is,” Loiselle said.

A representative from the Scituate Art Festival could not be reached.

Built in 1831 on a $75 piece of land, the Scituate Congregational Church is a focal point in town and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

The church flourished in the 1800s, and the Smithville Society alternated Sundays with both the Congregationalists and Baptists. Later, the church came under the jurisdiction of the Congregationalists. Attendance declined until there was no longer a congregation, and use of the building as a church ended in 1912.

Scituate took over ownership of the building in 1940 when the First Congregational Church and Society deeded the building to the town for “religious and historical meetings and purposes.”

In 1966, Scituate commissioned a feasibility study to look into restoring the church. The Scituate Art Festival formed as a result, and proceeds went to the restoration of the building along with other local charities and non-profits.

“It’s been a funding source for many programs in town for many years. A lot of people are hurting without the Art Festival,” Loiselle said.

The inside of the church is in excellent condition, said Loiselle. A few weeks back, youths attempted to break into the building by kicking out a piece of the door. The offenders were apprehended and the door was fixed, he told The Valley Breeze & Observer.

Despite being in need of repairs for its wooden split-shingle roof, Loiselle said the building is not leaking.

In December 2017, repairs to the church had the bells ringing in time for Christmas after years of being offline.

The church is rented out for weddings and other similar events, Loiselle said.

Fun fact: The Scituate Congregational Church is known as “the Church with the Backwards Pews,” as rows were built facing the door to embarrass latecomers. The floor is slanted upward and the rear is 16 inches higher than the front so no preaching platform is needed.

The interior of the North Scituate Congregational Church is in good shape, said DPW Director Kirk Loiselle.