The Story: Built of native brick on the highest point of Bowdoinham Ridge, the Free Will Baptist Church served as a religious and social hub of the community for 100 years after its construction in 1837. The modest and graceful church building was the place where Maine evangelist Frank Sanford heard his “first call to God.” After the church disbanded, the congregation left the building in the care of the Ridge Cemetery Association, which began to raise funds to repair it.
The Threat: The roof of the church is currently in serious, but not irreparable, structural condition, as a hole in the roof has gone unpatched. The breach is currently covered by a plastic tarp. Estimates to close the roof and address structural concerns are much higher than originally anticipated. Water has begun to infiltrate the church, which faces demolition by deferred maintenance.
The Solution: While there is passion in the community to save this historic structure, an organized effort has yet to coalesce around the Free Will Baptist Church. Repair work began through a New Century Community Program grant in 2006, but was halted when further issues were discovered and funds were insufficient to tackle the new challenges. The upcoming 250th anniversary of Bowdoinham can help illuminate the place of the Free Baptist Church in the towns past and the potential role for the building in its future.