Oak Grove Chapel, Vassalboro, ca. 1786


Built in 1786, the Oak Grove Chapel is a post and beam structure retaining its original hand-hewn rafters. Listed in the National Register in 1977 as the River Meeting House, the Chapel was one of the first Quaker Meeting Houses in Maine. In 1895, the Quaker Vassalboro Meeting of the Society of Friends deeded the meetinghouse to the Oak Grove School, which undertook an unusual architectural adaptation transforming the original T-shaped humble meetinghouse into the current picturesque shingle style chapel. Updates included a tower and portico, stained glass windows, and a new basement foundation (achieved by raising the structure several feet). Upon completion of the renovations, the chapel was renamed in honor of its benefactor, Sophia Bailey of Winthrop. The chapel remained part of the Oak Grove School for Girls, and later the Oak Grove Coburn School, campus until the school closed and was purchased by the State in 1990 to use as the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. The Chapel is now owned by the Oak Grove Foundation and cared for by an independent nonprofit known as The River Meeting House and Oak Grove Chapel which formed to advocate for the restoration of the historic property.


The Chapel is underutilized with deferred maintenance, and is falling into disrepair. There is ongoing water infiltration through the roof and the foundation. As recently as five years ago, its current owners were considering options to dispose of it, including demolition. In response to this threat, the Friends of the River Meeting House and Oak Grove Chapel formed to advocate for the preservation of the structure and to assist its owner with the management of the historic property. Their efforts convinced the Oak Grove Foundation to commit to not destroying the property; however, the Foundation has not funded rehabilitation expenses. The Friends is primarily composed of Oak Grove School for Girls alumni, and unless a use is identified for the structure and a more broad-based community of supporters can be included in their efforts, the future of the building is uncertain.


The Friends of the River Meetinghouse and Oak Grove Chapel conducted an assessment of the underutilized building and began fundraising for its preservation. The Friends and the Foundation could consider identifying an active use that provides sustainable funding for both deferred and ongoing maintenance, which could include offering this striking building for sale for adaptive use with a preservation easement. In the meantime, contributions are essential to stabilize the building and prevent further deterioration.