Built in 1821 as an omni-denominational place of worship for early settlers of “The Bend” region of the Petitcodiac River, the Free Meeting House stands in its original location at the corner of Steadman Street and Mountain Road in Moncton.
The house is designated as a Local Historic Place not only because it is the first and oldest public building erected in Moncton, but also due to its unique architecture within this region.
Constructed in 1821, The house sits on land donated by Hannah and William Steadman, the current street’s namesake. It was also the first building in Moncton to have a commemorative tablet during its centennial celebrations in 1921. This New England style meetinghouse is the only building of its kind in Moncton and its grounds contain the oldest burial site in the area. Most of the founders of the house are interred here, including The Steadmans and original trustees, Ichabod Lewis and Solomon Trites.
Research suggests that Shepherd Johnson Frost, a renowned New England architect who moved to New Brunswick in 1817, may have had a hand in the planning of, if not the building of, The Free Meeting House.
The house is also designated because of its lasting religious and community significance for Moncton. Designed by the earliest settlers of the area as a temporary place of worship for any denomination while permanent churches were being planned and built, some religious groups made it their home for as many as 57 years. Almost every religion present over the years in Moncton had its beginnings at house. Denominations shared and occupied the house since its construction in 1821 until the end of its strictly religious function in 1963.
The spirit of religious and secular cooperation is exemplified by The house’s 1921 centennial preparations. After a century of remodeling and periodic neglect, the trustees of The Free Meeting House, along with religious groups such as the Seven-Day Adventists and secular groups such as the Flat Iron Gang, worked side by side to rejuvenate the structure and the grounds.
Further to its community significance, a complete restoration of The house became a City of Moncton Centennial Project in 1990. This same year, The Free Meeting House was designated as a National Historic Site. In 1996, The Free Meeting House was designated a Heritage Property through the City of Moncton Heritage Preservation By-Law #Z-1102.
Today, the fully restored Free Meeting House is not only the largest artifact curated by the Moncton Museum, it still serves as a gathering site for secular and religious groups of any denomination, as well as private rentals for weddings, meetings and special events.
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