First Church in Cambridge (1871)

Merry Christmas from Historic Buildings of Massachusetts!!! Today, Let’s look at a church with a long history. The current church, or meeting house, of the First Church in Cambridge, is the congregation’s sixth and was built in 1871. The first meeting house was built in 1632 at Mount Auburn and Dunster Streets. This congregation eventually left for Hartford, Connecticut under Rev. Thomas Hooker and a new congregation was gathered in Cambridge in 1636. A second meeting house was built in 1650 in the center of Harvard Square and was replaced by the third, at the same location, in 1706. The fourth was built at the corner of Church Street and Massachusetts Avenue in 1757 and was used until 1829, when there was a split in the congregation between Congregationalists and Unitarians. The Congregationalists, taking the name of the Shepard Congregational Society, built their own separate fifth meeting house (the Shepard Memorial Church), at Mount Auburn and Holyoke Streets in 1831. Outgrowing this, they built the current church, at Garden and Mason Streets, in 1872. In 1899, the two churches agreed to be separately known as the First Church in Cambridge (Congregational) and the First Church in Cambridge (Unitarian), now called the First Parish Cambridge. In the 1920s, a Parish House with a chapel, offices, classrooms and meeting halls were added to the Congregational Church. The church has a brass cockerel weathervane, which was made by famed coppersmith Shem Drowne in 1821 for the New Brick Church, known as the Cockerel Church, on Hanover Street, Boston and was purchased for the Cambridge church in 1873.

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