Few public buildings from the original American colonies have survived since the seventeenth century. One such building is the Old Ship Church located in Hingham, Massachusetts.
The rich history of Old Ship Church dates back to 1681 when it was erected as a place to worship on Sundays as well as a meeting house where civic issues of the time could be discussed and examined. The site was home to many animated debates over the Revolution, discussions about politics and decisions on local issues like property taxes.
The structure is reflective of the true Elizabethan Gothic style that was common to the settlers of the area. The roof’s curved beams were hand cut by ax, making no two alike. The naming of the Old Ship Church is not documented, but it’s widely believed it is due to the unusual roof structure that resembles a ship’s hull.
The frame and walls of the church are original. The side galleries of the church were added in 1730 and 1755. The original seats were backless wooden benches that were later replaced with pews. During the Victorian era, the interior was renovated to include drapes and wallpaper, and the pews were replaced with new ornamental curved-back pews. However, in 1930, Old Ship was restored to its original characteristics from 1681 and remains that way to this date. Many of the features in the sanctuary date back to the original construction including a small, wooden hourglass located near the pulpit. The hourglass was used to ensure that sermons did not become too long; it continues this function every Sunday. For over 300 years, Old Ship has stood the test of time.
In 2014, the building underwent a restoration to ensure its longevity for future generations to enjoy. The Old Ship is the oldest church structure in the United States that has been used continuously for public worship. The Old Ship was featured on the History Channel, which documented the amazing architecture that showcases the historical landmark.
For more information, visit www.oldshipchurch.org.