“People say — we’ve heard — that this is the most-photographed church in our country,” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said. “Pretty amazing, up here in Peacham, so we’re going to get to the bottom of that. We’re going to talk about the history of this church and what makes it so special with Steve Galinat, who’s the president of the Peacham Historical Association.”
“Steve, as great a location as this is for the Peacham Congregational Church, I understand it wasn’t always here,” Mike Hoey said. “Why don’t we start by talking about that?”
“The original church was on the first floor of (Peacham) Academy, and then (in 1806) they finally built (this) church up by the cemetery,” Galinat answered. “It was right at the top of the hill. By the 1850s, they decided to move the church down. They rolled it down and turned it around — it used to face the other direction — added to the tower and put the steeple on the top.
“There’s a pipe organ in it that was donated by a parishioner who was not on good terms with the church for a long time, and when he made his penance, he decided to give this pipe organ and paid for it to be installed, and it’s gorgeous. (It’s an) Estey Organ from Brattleboro.”
“When Vermont was founded as a state, we really were founded around town government more so than county or state government,” Perkins noted. “And each town had a municipal building, which was often the church. It was one building, and it’s my understanding this building served that function from its very beginning — but it still does today. I think that’s fascinating.”
“The church has always been a big part of the community and it’s called — by those that don’t attend here — the Old Meetinghouse,” Galinat said. “Any community function that goes on that needs a large room, it’s the church that will do it, and they make the upstairs non-religious-looking.
“There was a red shoebox that somebody found — in our archives, actually. Nobody knew what it was. We opened it up, and it’s filled with papers from the beginning times of this church. And it showed how there were disputes that were settled in town by the church, and if the church decided that you were wrong, you may have been kicked out of town.
“They now have a day care center that’s in the basement, and they just opened up two years ago. In severe emergencies, that is also supposed to be our community relief center. There’s a preservation fund that is to keep the building here, and it’s non-religious.
“As you said, it’s the most-photographed church, and up on the top of the hill, people always take the picture of it. You catch the steeple and the edge of the village, and it makes you feel like you want a fire and a glass of wine!”
Hoey asked, “Any indication, Steve, of any general time frame when it might have struck people as being particularly photogenic? I’d be curious to know when that came about.”
“I was born in the early ’50s,” Galinat replied. “And it was on the cover of Vermont Life then.”
“Vermont Life (magazine) — established (by) the tourism arm of the State of Vermont — did its job,” Perkins added. “Took a picture of the church, and then everyone’s got to come to Peacham to take one.”
“Gotta see it,” Galinat said. “The other thing that I might mention is that during the summer, they do have, sometimes, programs that are open. You can check either with our website or the church’s website and find out when they’re open, but they give history of the church.”