When the Baptist Meeting House in Hudson Center was built in 1841 it included four walls with windows on probably three sides, a balcony, chimney, one or two wood burning stoves, a platform, a pulpit set, and pews. The pews were of the square box type and had been carried over from the North Meeting House. Pews were individually owned and passed down by deed. Likely the balcony was open overlooking the sanctuary and enclosed later to conserve heat. You may ask about the steeple. It was part of the early building as evidenced by the bell. The first bell, donated by Deacon Moses Greeley, cracked and was replaced in 1847 by the present bell. At first stringed instruments were used to provide the music. They were replaced by a pump organ about 1850. At that time a young doctor in town, Dr. David O. Smith, also served as music director for the church.
Various modifications to the sanctuary have occurred since 1841, but the most notable of these occurred in 1888 when the church received the gift of the Woodbury and Harris tracker organ from Dr. David O. Smith. In order to house this organ an alcove was added to the front of the sanctuary. At the same time extensive changes to modernize the sanctuary were made.
The new organ became the centerpiece of the sanctuary with the large archway for the pipes and the console for the organist. Behind the scenes were doors through which one could enter into the organ. The doorway on the left side was most important. As the church did not have electricity a ‘blow boy’ would enter into the organ in order to exercise the pump handle to place air into the organ pipes. This practice continued into the 1920’s when the organ was electrified.
Other improvements included colored glass windows, a new pulpit set, an updated platform, and new modern pews. These pews were said to be of the newest type available at the time. The pulpit set, windows, and pews are a part of the sanctuary at the present time. The platform has had various minor changes made to it through the years. Our first photo show the interior of the church sanctuary C 1888 shortly after the dedication of the new organ and the re-dedication of the sanctuary in April 1888. Lighting was done by gas; note the center chandelier in the sanctuary. Also the ceiling is not the steel ceiling of today; this was added about 1905.
Before we ‘fast forward’ to the present time let me make a comment about baptisms. Prior to 1900 there was no baptistery within the church. Baptisms occurred at a local lake; Ottarnic or Robinson Pond. Our church has had 3 baptistries. The first installed about 1900 and the third C1965 to the left of the organ as a memorial to Deacon Arthur M. Smith. The mural for the baptistery was painted by Phyllis Moore.
For the past 10 plus years the church at Hudson Center has engaged in a number of building improvements; some of which paved the way for more visible renovations to the sanctuary. The earliest of these was the replacement of the steeple. The original steeple was removed in 2000 and for many years we were without a steeple. As funds and an able contractor became available the steeple was replaced in 2006. The second major improvement came with the restoration of the colored sanctuary windows; again as money became available each window was removed, restored, and returned to it’s original place. The third improvement was to upgrade our heating system and the installation of central air for the sanctuary. These improvements were completed in 2014.
With these infrastructural items completed it became possible to plan for more visual enhancements to the sanctuary. A Sanctuary Refurbishment committee was organized by the congregation. The first project is to update and enlarge the platform. After a planning period and architectural drawing of the proposed platform, see photo, construction work began In February 2018. The goals are to enlarge and modernize the platform, improve access to it and the organ console, and to make sure it was structurally sound. The construction work is being done by volunteers from the church and the community under the leadership of Richard Tassi as the architect.
Follow-on projects will include painting of walls and ceiling, lighting, flooring, and more comfortable seating. The schedule for these projects is open and will be planned when resources are available.
The Baptist Church in Hudson Center has served our community and our Lord for over 200 years. The building at 236 Central Street is an historic building. It is interesting and important that while making these plans for the future we are able to reflect on our past.