Dedication ceremony conducted for renovated church

Brand new structure links historic downtown Nashua landmarks

Staff photo by Dean Shalhoup Parishioners and visitors to Sunday's dedication service for Main Street United Methodist Church's new connector building and nursery surround Charlie Hall, left, whose family has been a longtime church benefactor. Next to Hall is the Rev. Rich Cullen, church pastor.

NASHUA – Nearly five years ago, when the first draft of the plan to connect the Main Street United Methodist Church with its equally historic Wesley Building next door was drawn up, Pastor Rich Cullen already had in mind the man who he felt should take the first elevator ride.

The elevator, a monumental improvement over the “chair stair” that for decades transported parishioners and visitors – one at a time – between floors, was among the amenities included in the estimated $2 million renovation project.

“I’d always hoped he’d be the first to use it,” Cullen said Sunday, referring to Philip Lawrence Hall, one of the church’s most active parishioners for more than 60 years. “But it was not to happen.”

Hall, a lifelong Nashua resident and 28-year military veteran who was long associated with the family HVAC business J. Lawrence Hall, died in November 2016, several months before the renovation project got underway.

But as evidenced Sunday, at the dedication service and ceremony for the church’s newly completed connector building, its new nursery, new elevator and the new plaza fronting Main Street, the Hall name remains prominent in and around the church as leaders and parishioners begin gearing up for its next big celebration – September’s 150th anniversary observance.

Courtesy photo The second floor of the Main Street United Methodist Church's new connector building offers a wide, clear view of Nashua's Main Street. The building, along with its new nursery and the renovated front plaza, was dedicated on Sunday.

Philip Hall’s widow, Betty, passed less than a year after her husband, and just a month before the August 2017 service marking the project’s official

groundbreaking.

At Sunday’s dedication, church board of trustees chairwoman Donna Swanson said church leaders felt it appropriate to dedicate the elevator to Philip and Betty Hall, given their long history as church benefactors.

In addressing the nearly 100 parishioners and visitors who filled the new building’s main lobby for the dedication ceremony, Swanson pointed out that even the elevator’s emergency phone pays tribute to the Halls: The last four digits – 4255 – spell “Hall.”

Charles and Elliot Hall, two of Philip and Betty Hall’s three adult children, took part in the program, thanking church leaders and parishioners for honoring their parents.

Staff photo by Dean Shalhoup Main Street United Methodist Church parishioners stand shoulder-to-shoulder as they take part in the dedication service for the church's new connector building Sunday.

Their sister, Susanne Hall Grigel, lives in Washington state and was unable to attend.

Earlier, during the final segment of the 10:30 worship service, Cullen named a series of donors whose pledges helped build, appoint or furnish the new or renovated spaces.

Among those present were representatives of NorthPoint Construction Management, a Hudson-based firm that served as the general contractor for the project.

NorthPoint donated the new flagpole, and the flag, that was installed on the front plaza.

Inside, the new video system was donated by the family of Brenda Clarke-Pounder in her memory, while the audio system was given in memory of Christopher Samuel O.

Staff photo by Dean Shalhoup Donna Swanson, chairwoman of the Main Street United Methodist Church board of trustees, speaks at Sunday's dedication of the church's new connector building and nursery about the contributions of the Hall family to the church over three generations. At left is Charlie Hall, whose father, J. Lawrence Hall, wrote a history of the church, and at right is Pastor Rich Cullen.

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Meanwhile, the first noticable step in the renovation project celebrated Sunday was the demolition about three years ago of the single-story “strip mall” that for nearly a century sat in front of, and largely hid, the stately 1852 Isaac Spalding Mansion.

The church, which has owned the mansion since 1965, has primarily used it as classroom space for its educational programs.

As for the church itself, construction got underway in 1866, when several prominent members of Nashua’s Methodist community formed a corporation “to spearhead the monetary responsibility and purchase” of land at Main and Temple streets with the purpose of constructing a new church building, according to a history authored by J. Lawrence Hall and published in 1982.

The men, who became trsutees of the corporation, “were said to have mortaged their homes to make a dream come true,” Hall wrote.

Nearly two years later, on July 22, 1868, Pastor Ebenezer Smith welcomed his parishioners as they passed through the doors of the new, handsome edifice for the first time.

Now, because July 22 just happens to fall on a Sunday again this year, Cullen said the church is planning to observe its 150th, or sesquicentennial, anniversary that day with a “throwback service,” for which details are being formulated.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DeanS.