Old Ship Meeting House: Where Generations Meet
Hingham has always loved a meeting. No place embraces that passion for freedom of assembly more than the Old Ship Meeting House.
Built in 1681, Old Ship served two purposes: as a Meeting House where civic issues of the day were discussed, and as a place of worship on Sundays. Lively debates over the Revolution, the form American Democracy would take, and local issues such as property taxes, have taken place under its distinctive timber roof.
Architecturally, the Meeting House is an example of king post construction, with its beams held up by a center "king" post, enabling the space to be spanned by one long beam. This style is now recognized as "American Meeting House", specific to those houses built during the colonial period in American history. The great curved timbers that support the roof were cut from bowed oak limbs grown in local forest. Axe hewn, no two are exactly alike in dimension. Although it’s still a mystery, the name Old Ship may have been inspired by the unusual roof structure, which resembles the hull of a ship.
The frame and walls of the church stand as built in 1681, within the additions of side galleries in 1730 and 1755. The seats were originally backless wooden benches; the first box pews were installed in 1755. The interior went through a renovation in the Victorian era in which drapes and wallpaper were added and the distinctive boxes replaced with more ornamental curved back pews. Old Ship was restored to its understated 17th and 18th century characteristics in 1930, and remains true to that spirit today.
For over 300 years, Old Ship has borne witness to every aspect of our growth as a nation. Early Old Ship ministers and prominent local citizens were part of the political and religious debates of their time, thereby helping to influence the evolving social and philosophical fabric of our nation. The simple meeting house design is itself emblematic of the principles on which our country was founded.
Hingham is home to this matchless piece of American history, recognized as a National Historic Landmark. The Old Ship Meeting House is a monument to the past, and an inspiration for the future.
“Landmark buildings are a part of our life; they are not just buildings.
They are aids to navigation through daily life. They are where and who we are in time”
Author, Historian and Trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation
We Invite You To Be A Friend Of The Old Ship Meeting House
It is the Friends’ mission to preserve Old Ship so that those who come after us can enjoy, take pride in, and learn from this historic structure that has meaning for us all. Click here to learn more about our mission.
© image ©geoffrey gross 2008 nyc from Old Houses of New England, Rizzoli, 2010
90 Main Street
Hingham, MA 02043
Nina Wellford Price