Friends to celebrate Wendell Meetinghouse’s 175th anniversary

  • Friends will be holding a 175th anniversary celebartion Saturday for the Wendell Meeting House. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Renovations continue in the Wendell Meeting House, which is celebrating its 175th anniversary. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Hal Flynn and Allistair MacMartin repair the floor of the Wendell Meeting House, which is celebrating its 175th year. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Hal Flynn sands the floor of the Wendell Meeting House, which is undergoing reconstruction. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Court Dorsey with some of the wainscoting that will be reinstalled below the fresh plaster in the Wendell Meeting House, which is undergoing reconstruction. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The bell in the belfry of the Wendell Meeting House. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Allistair MacMartin with an 18-inch wide board in choir loft of the Wendell Meeting House, which is undergoing reconstruction. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/9/2021 1:25:47 PM
Modified: 9/9/2021 1:25:55 PM

WENDELL — The Friends of the Wendell Meetinghouse have planned a 175th anniversary celebration that will mark the building’s official reopening and the end of phase one reconstruction, which has made it available for three-season use under the Friends’ guardianship.

The celebration, free and open to the public, is slated for 2 to 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 11. The rain date is Sept. 12, though the festivities will be held indoors and outside. The event is expected to feature the unveiling of renovations completed so far, appetizers and drinks, the sealing of a time capsule to be opened on the building’s bicentennial birthday in 2046, and music from The Gaslight Tinkers, Moonlight Davis, Morning Star Chenven, the Wendell Community Chorus, Carrie Ferguson and others.

Court Dorsey, president of the Friends’ Board of Directors, said the nonprofit organization is planning food and beverages for 100 to 150 people.

“Everybody’s looking forward to it,” he said.

The Wendell Selectboard voted unanimously Wednesday to allow the Friends to offer free beer and wine, with a two-drink limit, at the event. Dorsey addressed the board to explain drinks will be served only inside the building (though they can be carried to the food tents) and at least three people will be tasked with monitoring those with alcoholic beverages. He also said insurance will be purchased for the event and he will provide the board with documentation to prove it.

Dorsey also explained COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place, with masks required inside the building and social distancing encouraged throughout the event. There will be a limit of 20 to 25 people inside the building during self-guided tours.

Lou Leelyn, the Friends’ communications coordinator, said a family-friendly event is what the area needs following the anxiety that has accompanied 17 months of existence in a global pandemic.

“As usual, we gather a lot of community volunteers and there are a lot of people who are excited about celebrating the birthday of the building,” she said. “We’ve all needed some encouragement that we can meet our friends and neighbors and I think the Meetinghouse is a great place to do that.”

Anyone willing to volunteer at the event should email or visit People are invited to bring items — such as photos and letters — for the time capsule to be opened in 2046.

Leelyn said she looks forward to chatting with community members at the event. She also said amateur area historians will be present to share photos and stories of the Meetinghouse. The building was constructed in 1846. After the official reopening, renovations are expected to continue into the next phase of construction, which includes ceiling restoration, stage construction, and the completion of all interior renovations to house events of its four domains — Spirit Circles and celebrations, The Living Room social gathering space, The Performance Place for music and theater, and the Maker/Learner Center for classes, exhibits, arts, and crafts.

Dorsey told the Greenfield Recorder that Sept. 11 was chosen as the event date because it allowed the Friends to spend the summer planning and because it was initially expected to be the day all U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan. When asked if he thought people would object to holding the event on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Dorsey said he does not believe anyone will find it in poor taste.

“I think it’s all the more reason to come. It is 20 years to the day, and we’re also celebrating the end of a long war. I don’t think people will think it’s insensitive, I hope not. We have to celebrate our communities, even though we’re living in some really challenging times,” he said. “I think, to avoid a date because it’s a tragic one, my God, pretty soon we wouldn’t be able to go anywhere or do anything.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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