Second Congregational Meetinghouse Society Church, Orange Street, Nantucket, Nantucket County, MA
Significance: The structure, with its clock tower and golden dome, dominates the skyline of Nantucket town. The church is an outstanding example of an early nineteenth century meeting house with trompe-l'oeil painting on interior. / Second Congregational Meeting House (Unitarian Church, or South Church) was completed in 1809, the first sermon delivered on November 12 of that year. Elisha Ramsdell was the builder. The original square tower, which reached as high as the present belfry, was completed earlier (by May, 1809) with Jemel West as its probably subcontractor. The famous Portuguese bell was installed in the tower and rung for the first time December 27, 1815. The town clock was probably placed during the Autumn of 1821. By 1830, the original tower was becoming dilapidated and unsafe. Therefore, it was voted to remove the original tower and to erect a new one which would house the bell, the town clock, as well as provide quarters for a fire and storm watch. Structural timber was imported from Georgia, and James Weeks constructed the new tower in 1830. James Austin coppered the dome. The organ, built by William Marcellus Goodrich (1777-1833) was also purchased and installed during 1830. The original Meeting House included a horseshoe-shaped second floor gallery and two separate tiers of double hung windows. In 1844 the building was changed extensively by F.B. Coleman, Nantucket architect and master builder. The entire house (excluding the tower) was raised to permit a vestry and kitchen below. The interior was gutted, and full length side windows were installed. The shallow chancel was added on the west side. New mahogany caps and arms were added to the pews, and the shallow, domed ceiling was constructed. The trompe l'oeil decoration is attributed to Carl Wendte, an Italian artist, though a bill was paid to a Mr. Savory for "fresco painting" during the same period. On April 18, 1859, the whale oil chandeliers were removed. Major repairs which did not affect the building architecturally were completed in 1883. During the summer of 1916, the basement vestry was remodeled, a new floor being placed and the columns moved.
Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: FN-195, FN-216
Survey number: HABS MA-838
Building/structure dates: 1809 Initial Construction
Building/structure dates: 1830 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: 1844 Subsequent Work