OTISFIELD — Two men attired in breeches, waistcoats and wigs will greet those attending the annual Bell Hill Meetinghouse Service on Sunday, July 27. Those arriving in automobiles, not carriages, may have to remind themselves that this is 2014, not 1837, when local architect Nathan Nutting Jr. began planning how to build the new meetinghouse.
The occasion marks the 175th anniversary of the building’s completion, for which the Bell Hill Meetinghouse Association has planned a dramatic presentation that recalls just why, and how, the meetinghouse came about in the first place.
The service, which will begin at 2:30 p.m., will feature music by the Bell Hill Singers, directed by Priscilla Delehanty. Their vocal music will include the old favorite “Peace in the Valley.” The Camp Arcadia Singers will also perform.
In keeping with the 175th anniversary theme, the afternoon will feature also an original short play starring four local actors: Peggy Mowery as narrator; State Sen. Jim Hamper as Nathan Nutting Jr.; Adam Bartow as Mr. Wordsmith, a Boston reporter; and from the audience, Ken Bartow as a loudmouthed townsman.
Nutting and Wordsmith, in formal dress, will greet attendees at the hilltop Common as they arrive for the service.
The Rev. Rick Mowery of Otisfield’s Spurr’s Corner Church will lead prayers. This year marks the 101st consecutive year that an annual service has been held on Bell Hill. That the meetinghouse has continued to play an important community role since 1839 is largely due to the efforts of the Bell Hill Meetinghouse Association, incorporated in 1927 with the two stated goals of preserving the building and continuing the tradition of religious services in the stately building that once served as a Congregational church.
This year also marks the 175th anniversary of the construction of the brick schoolhouse next to the meetinghouse. Until about 1940 this one-room building served as a district school for the town of Otisfield. The Bell Hill Association acquired it in 1950. Thanks to recent rehabilitative work on its interior, the schoolhouse now serves as a small museum. It is furnished with period desks typical of those once used there. This year on display will be pictures of some of the other churches and houses designed by Nathan Nutting throughout western Maine.
Following the 2:30 service, an ice cream social, including hot fudge sauce and cupcakes, will be held on the common outside. The public is invited to join this community celebration.