A Patten Preservationist Is a Historic Church’s Salvation

For Marcia Pond Anderson, the road to rescuing the 19th-century church leads back to middle school.

Marcia Pond Anderson inside Patten’s 1845 Regular Baptist Church
By Sarah Stebbins
Photos by Chris Battaglia
From our October 2023 issue

Marcia Pond Anderson began her quest to save Patten’s 1845 Regular Baptist Church with a simple plea. During a meeting of the town select board, held after it approved demolition of the neglected structure last year, she protested, “That is the most important historic building we have. If you tear it down, you will never have that again.” Built by Patten’s founding residents, with a trompe l’oeil ceiling, the church was a meeting spot for a volunteer militia that later served in the Union Army. The town purchased it in 1928, and it housed the Veteran’s Memorial Library until 2020; in 1958, the central arched windows were replaced with stained glass. Pond Anderson’s entreaty bought some time, which she used to form a preservation committee that gathered signatures in favor of conveying the church to the Patten Historical Society (founded by Pond Anderson) and compelled a town vote. Last spring, residents approved the measure 82 to 5. “There were roadblocks, but you keep going,” Pond Anderson says. “I don’t believe in the word ‘can’t.’”

How did you get involved in preservation?

When I was in sixth grade, the schools consolidated and middle-schoolers started going to Patten Academy, a beautiful 1898 structure. In 1975, they tore it down, which was so sad. One day, a friend and I noticed a room with trophies, photographs of graduating students, and other history from the high school. I thought, something has to be done. So I went to librarian Katherine Rogers at the Veteran’s Memorial Library and asked if we could bring them there. She agreed, and we boxed up all we could.

Exterior photo courtesy of Marcia Pond Anderson

How did the Patten Historical Society start?

We were losing buildings, and I realized we needed a presence to inform people and say, ‘This is enough.’ Several years after I started it, in 1986, I noticed the early-20th-century former home of Katherine Rogers and Dr. Lore Rogers, who started the Patten Lumbermen’s Museum, had spray-painted numbers on it. I went to the town office and learned the town had acquired the building and firefighters were practicing putting out fires there. I said, ‘You can’t let this happen,’ and we were able to get the house transferred to the historical society.

What’s your connection to the church?

As schoolchildren, walking into the library in the church was like entering another world — there was a Civil War uniform, a replica of Queen Nefertiti’s bust, textiles from Peru. As an adult going in to get a book or do research, sitting on one of the original benches (now at the historical society), you knew that they were special. People have said to me, ‘That was my safe place’ or ‘That’s where I learned about the Civil War.’ There’s such a deep love for that building and what it stood for.

What’s next?

We need to replace the roof and repair the foundation; we’re slowly exposing the painted ceiling and seeing what condition it’s in. Our goal is to preserve the historical integrity and repurpose the building for the community and future generations, maybe with concerts, art shows, poetry readings. There are a lot of talented people in Patten and what they have in common is their heart. Their heart is in this, and it means a lot to them.

To donate to the church restoration, contact the Patten Historical Society at 207-267-0720 or pondie3@gmail.com.

May 2024, Down East Magazine

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