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Riverdale Methodist Church (Washington Street)

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The Riverdale Methodist Church building was the second Methodist church built in Gloucester, and is currently the site of the Gloucester United Methodist Church at 436 Washington Street. The Harbor Methodist had been built in 1828. Ten years later, in 1838, both this and the first Methodist church in Sandy Bay/Rockport were built. The first Methodists had met in Gloucester in 1806, in a nearby Riverdale house then owned by John Edney. For a brief period, 1823–28 or so, Rev. George Pickering held Methodist meetings in the old First Parish meetinghouse at the Green. Lane's mother and brother were active early Methodists, but they attended services at the Harbor Methodist Church, the so-called "Church on the Rock."

The Riverdale Methodist Church was erected by Harris from Ipswich (either Ephraim Harris, 47, carpenter or Isaac T. Harris, 24, housewright). The lumber came from Cambridge on a vessel owned by Captain Levi Cleaves, a Sandy Bay Methodist, and was brought ashore at the Riverdale Mills and hauled the short distance up the hill to the site of the church, on land given by Samuel Curtis. 

Internal improvements to the building were made in 1852, but the outer appearance remained unchanged to the time when Lane painted it, in the distance, in his The Babson Meadows at Riverdale, 1863 (inv. 11)

The bell that still hangs in the steeple is the original, hand cast in 1806 by Paul Revere & Son Boston. It originally hung in the Congregational Old Sloop Church in what is now Rockport and was rung to alert the townspeople of an imminent 1814 attack by the British during the War of 1812. In 1840, since the townspeople of Sandy Bay thought the tone of the bell clashed with that of their other bells, it was sold for $156 and moved to this church where it is still rung, despite a thin crack that resulted from a British cannonball hit.

The church caught fire in 1952, but the bell did not fall from the tower. The major portion of the current building is new, including an altar mural by Howard Curtis.

– Sarah Dunlap (September, 2013)

Related tables: Riverdale / Town Parish »

photo (historical)
Riverdale Methodist Church
E. G. Rollins
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

Riverdale Methodist Church on Washington Street above the Mills. Mill River and Wheeler's Point to left rear distant background Annisquam Point.

Also filed under: Riverdale Mills »

1851 Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport (detail of Annisquam River)
H. F. Walling
44 x 34 in.
Henry Francis Walling, Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport, Essex Co. Massachusetts. Philadelphia, A. Kollner, 1851
Cape Ann Museum Library & Archive

"Map of the Towns of Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts. H.F. Walling, Civil Engineer. John Hanson, Publisher. 1851. Population of Gloucester in 1850 7,805. Population of Rockport in 1850 3,213."

Citation: "Historical Materials." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum.§ion=Riverdale+Methodist+Church+%28Washington+Street%29 (accessed June 19, 2024).
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