On Old King’s Highway among centennial Yarmouthport buildings such as the Edward Gorey House and Benjamin Thacher Gorham House, sits what architect Sarah Jane Porter calls “the most significant historic public structure of its period on Cape Cod.” Boston architect Samuel Thayer designed the building formerly known as the Church of the New Jerusalem in 1870, constructed by John Hinckley, with towering gothic arches, and stained glass windows. The church was originally the spiritual home to Swedenborgian Christians, (a popular denomination of its time), and was congregated for about a hundred years until the number of parishioners dwindled too low to maintain the edifice, and it fell into devastating disrepair.
In 1998 when Cape Cod community members, who wanted to see the property reinvented as a community center, organized The Yarmouth New Church Preservation Foundation, a local board of volunteer directors purchased the former church building for $1 and began the mission to breathe new life into the old bones of the building and utilize it as a community center. Sorely needed renovations continue to be primarily funded by donations, ticket sales, and the yearly contributions of the Friends of the Yarmouth New Church Preservation Foundation. Since then, the foundation has brought the building up to current fire codes and handicapped accessibility, improved water, and electrical services, and updated the sound and lighting systems.
The carefully renovated belltower and belfry preserve the ethereal beauty and soul of the place, and the restored original stained-glass windows and frescoed walls overlook the original tracker pipe organ. Adding to its attention-drawing uniquely exquisite character are pews crafted of American Chestnut, a hardwood that became functionally extinct after a catastrophic blight in the early 20th century.
However, even with all the restorations, a new roof, and a fresh coat of paint to broadcast its readiness to be a part of the community as a whole, the building is still frequently mistaken for a church. A common misconception that was perpetuated by the old name, The New Church. On June 26, 2022, after plans were temporarily halted by the COVID19 pandemic, the building was rebranded as Thacher Hall at a dedication ceremony by the foundation and members of the Cape Cod community.
Yarmouth resident and foundation Event Manager, Victoria Krukowski, explains that while the beautiful building’s allure contains the staples, and ambiance of a gorgeous old church, it no longer holds any religious affiliations, and is the perfect venue for local artists to display galleries of their work in a place that according to her feels like taking a step back in time. Having a career background as a musician with the symphony orchestra, she appreciates how the rustic space carries soulful acoustics, and she deeply admires the historical artifacts and quirky intricacies that Thacher Hall offers a remarkable choice for private and community events.
Previous events have included Open Mic Nights, weddings, memorial services, the Cape Cod Chamber Orchestra, Haunted Octobers, and Christmas Strolls. Since 2020 it has been used as a community art center. Planned Events and availability can be found on the website, and they can be reached by phone at 508-744-7368, and by Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thacher Hall invites you to attend a Historic 1870 Organ Demonstration and Concert at 2 pm on Sunday, August 7th, 2022, where you can learn the history of the organ, see how the organ is built, and hear it played by Dr. Mark Lawlor, of the American Guild of Organists of Cape Cod and the islands. This family-friendly event is free to attend.
Thacher Hall is located at 266 Route 6A (Main Street), in Yarmouthport.
This blog is funded through the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.
Photo credits: Britt Skinner and William DeSousa-Mauk
(Britt Skinner is a freelance writer.)