As part of our building history series, today we take a look at the Mariposa Museum Building in Peterborough, New Hampshire (link to picture gallery):
The story of the Baptist Church Building begins in 1822 with a few people seeking a spiritual identity that they could claim as their own. Fifteen people joined together to form a Baptist congregation. They first met at the old schoolhouse on High Street and then built their own structure at approximately 28 High Street, which has since burned down. The congregation grew as their doctrine appealed to the growing number of mill workers in the community, who saw the Baptist congregation as more egalitarian and less rooted in the old established families of the town. When their numbers reached 100, the decision was made to relocate to the village center to be closer to their membership base, who had no means of transportation except on foot.
The new building was constructed at 26 Main Street. The street level was designed to be a commercial rental space and was completed in 1841. The rental income enabled this working class congregation to build the upper level sanctuary, which was completed and dedicated in 1842. The Church flourished and was particularly successful in its Sunday school, which numbered over 100. The Church also provided leadership in the temperance movement and the abolitionist movement.
The makeup of the mill workers changed as immigrant workers began to outnumber the New England workers. These immigrants had their own faith community, which was rooted in the Catholicism of their Old World homelands. By 1926 the congregation had become too small to maintain a pastor or services, so current members migrated elsewhere, primarily with the Methodist congregation. Some of the records of the Baptist Church are kept at the Peterborough Historical Society.
The building itself continued on as an important retail space for the village. It provided easy shopping for scores of mill workers, who lived and worked in or near the village center. Through the years the first floor housed a harness shop, a barber shop, a shoe store, a dress shop and an electronics store. In 1952 Henry Lord donated funds to remodel the upper floor to serve as a center for Boy and Girl Scouts. This upper floor space later housed an art gallery and Ray Lyn ballet school. Ted Leach also used the upper space for the Monadnock Ledger. In 1986 he sold the newspaper but kept the building, which he lovingly transformed into the New England Marionette Theater.
A fire on January 1, 1999 destroyed the Theater interior but not building’s outer structure. Downtown 2000 was formed and through their efforts and the support of the community the building was saved from demolition. On January 1st, 2001, David Blair and Linda Marsella bought the building and formed the not-for-profit Journeys in Education—Mariposa Museum. They rebuilt the entire interior but preserved all of the historic features of the exterior of the Baptist Church building. The Mariposa Museum opened its doors on July 1st 2002.
Source: Mariposa Museum