Story by Sarah Engelman, Intern
Image: Vicki Krukowski (L) and Mary-Ann Agresti (R)
This past weekend on June 26th, the Yarmouth New Church was officially renamed Thacher Hall in a special celebration. A staple of Yarmouth Port Common since 1870, Thacher Hall remains a thriving cultural center for the local community.
I recently spoke with Vicki Krukowski, the event coordinator for Thacher Hall. According to Vicki, many people believe Thacher Hall is still a functioning church when it is now a secular community center where all are invited. “A lot of time was spent explaining what the Church wasn’t,” Vicki says. “It’s not new anymore and it’s not a church anymore!” The name change will clear up confusion regarding the building’s purpose and make it more accessible, inviting even more community members to enjoy all that the building has to offer. The new name also honors the Thacher family, who donated the land on which Thacher Hall is built and has continued to support the site as a community center.
Thacher Hall was designed by architect Samuel Thayer and is one of the best examples of American gothic architecture in New England, with its beautiful arches, frescoes, and stained glass windows. Unfortunately, the beautiful building fell into disrepair in the second half of the twentieth century and in 1998, a local non-religious nonprofit called the Yarmouth New Church Preservation Foundation was formed to restore the historic building and operate it for the public benefit.
To Vicki, walking into Thacher Hall feels like stepping back in time. All of its architecture and art, from the frescos to the stained glass windows, is original from the 1870’s. Vicki is impressed by the Foundation’s board’s commitment to preserving the space and using it for public benefit. She states, “The board knows it’s something to be shared now. They work so diligently to bring it to the community.”
The Foundation and CARE share the mission of cultural preservation and educating about Cape Cod’s history. In its nearly 25 years of operation, the Foundation has made great strides towards preserving Thacher Hall for future generations. Its projects include (but are not limited to) restoring the building’s bell tower and belfry, renovating the stained glass windows, altering stairwells to comply with fire codes, and installing an HVAC climate control system so that the building is comfortable to use year-round.
Thacher Hall regularly hosts community events. One such event is All Around the Common, in which Thacher Hall, Bangs Hallet House Museum, Edward Gorey House, and the 1780 Winslow Crocker House on Yarmouth Port Common all hold open houses. Holidays are prime times also for community gathering, with a Halloween celebration and Christmas Stroll being particular favorites. Other events regularly hosted by Thacher Hall include weddings, concerts, art exhibitions, and memorial services.
CARE has given a grant to the Foundation that will provide panels that educate about Thacher Hall’s history. On the outside of Thacher Hall will be a panel that describes not only the building’s history, but the history of Yarmouth Port Common in general, including the other sites that participate in the All Around the Common event. People will now be able to learn about the site without having attended one of its hosted events or Saturday open houses.“It is really exciting to be able to tell the story of the commons,” says Mary-Ann Agresti, a board member of the Foundation. “I think the more we can tell people the story of a place, the more they feel the place is significant to themselves as well. We’ve been able to partner with CARE so we can provide this history to people even when the building’s closed.” On the inside of Thacher Hall will be 9-10 panels that make up a self-guided walking tour. These panels will provide information on the building’s preserved interior, from its rare walnut pews to its original tracker pipe organ by William Horatio Clarke. These panels are made possible not only through CARE’s grant, but also through the efforts of volunteers who offer up their design services and research expertise.
The Foundation, with its incredible achievements in restoration and preservation, shows that the historic sites of Cape Cod remain important to and utilized by today’s community. Through its work, the Foundation ensures that Thacher Hall is accessible for all to enjoy for many years to come.