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July 16, 2014

Restriction protects Union Congregational Church facade

AMESBURY — It has served as a beacon of hope and light in the Point Shore neighborhood for 179 years and Mayor Ken Gray is hoping that Main Street’s Union Congregational Church (UCC) stays in Amesbury permanently, sponsoring a preservation restriction to protect the buildings as historic landmarks.

“We are very pleased,” said the Rev. Lucy Blood, UCC pastor. “It is a gorgeous landmark in the town of Amesbury and, as such, it should go on past this generation to other generations as a place to worship.”

Built in what was then Salisbury in 1835 and located at 350 Main Street, the UCC property consists of the church itself, as well as a small reception hall. Both buildings sit across Main Street from Alliance Park and the Powow River and were in danger of being sold in 2010 as the congregation could not afford repairs and maintenance issues at the time.

Point Shore neighbors to the church, Joe and Carol Finn would frequent the church’s spaghetti suppers, and when they heard there was a possibility of developers buying the church and tearing it down to build condominiums. The couple, along with neighbor Carol Glenn, began the nonprofit Union Congregational Church Restoration Alliance. The group has raised approximately $78,000 to protect the buildings over the past four years.

“We are extremely pleased,” Joe Finn said. “We certainly have gotten to know the congregation and feel bonded with them at a certain level. We want them to succeed and we feel the best safety for the church property would be a viable congregation that will maintain the buildings.”

While the Restoration Alliance wants the UCC to be successful, they are also satisfied that the preservation restriction would protect the buildings’ aesthetics whether they remain a church or become something else in the future.

“If the church couldn’t make it financially, they could sell the property,” Joe Finn said. “But whoever they sold it to could never alter the exterior facades of the buildings. It doesn’t prevent any alteration of the inside so someone could buy it and have a restaurant there, or they could convert it to condos inside the buildings but they would look the same from the outside and that is what the neighbors want.”

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