By Jean Milburn
Special to the Crier
In 1814, the citizens of the settlement that became Wayland raised a timber frame at the corner of Rtes. 20, 27 and 126. Local residents had purchased an acre of land and engaged Andrews Palmer of Newburyport to serve as designer and builder for a new church. Palmer used a design by Asher Benjamin, one of the most historically significant architects of early New England. Happily, Palmer fitted her bell tower with a bell cast by Revere and Sons.
Although First Parish in Wayland is 200 years old, she is as beautiful as she was when she was raised, thanks both to the citizens that first owned her and the loving stewardship of the series of faith groups who have owned her since Massachusetts towns ceased to own and operate a "town church."
She is the fifth meetinghouse raised near this site by the residents of the Sudbury Plantation, the area now divided into the towns of Sudbury and Wayland. Early settlers of Massachusetts were required to build and operate meetinghouses with public funds. The first was built in 1643 near the North Cemetery, the second in 1653, and the third in 1688.
In 1723, a meetinghouse was built in Sudbury Center, dividing the community into two precincts. A fourth "Wayland" meetinghouse was built in 1726 near the current location of the old Collins Market Building. The fifth meetinghouse was built on its current site in 1814 and began service to the town, then called East Sudbury, in 1815. Also built were two sets of horse sheds, one of which still survives on the site.
In 1833, changes in the law caused churches in Massachusetts to cease operation as an organ of the state, and the building passed into the hands of private citizens. In the 1850s, changes were made to the building. On the interior, the sanctuary was divided vertically to create a meeting room below. On the exterior, the sanctuary windows were replaced with larger windows and the town clock was added to the tower.
The Historic Districts Act (Chapter 40C) of the General Laws was adopted in 1965 by Wayland Town Meeting creating the first Wayland Historic District at Wayland Center. This act assures that the Historic Meeting House and Horse Sheds will be protected from changes that would significantly alter the appearance, although the function and purpose may change significantly with future changes in ownership.
Modern changes to the property include the demolition of one set of horse sheds, building of a Parish House, an addition in the rear of the building to accommodate an elevator, and an office for the minister.
In 2013, changes were made to make the buildings more compliant with the American Disabilities Act, including a breezeway connecting the buildings, seating areas for persons using wheelchairs, and a handicapped entry ramp placed where it cannot be viewed from a public way.
So, when you pass through Wayland Center, say "Happy Birthday" to the tall beauty on the corner. May she always be with us, making Wayland even lovelier. Wayland residents are welcome to visit and tour the historic building. Arrangements can be made by contacting the church office. The church’s annual rummage sale, this year on Saturday, April 5 at 9 a.m., is a great time to see the building and pick up a few bargains.
See article at: Wicked Local - Wayland