Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2012 Preservation Award Winners
Center Methodist Church / Provincetown Public Library • Provincetown

Center Methodist Church / Provincetown Public Library • Provincetown

Adaptive Reuse, Rehabilitation & Restoration

When it was built in 1860, the Center Methodist Episcopal Church was reputed to be the largest church of its denomination anywhere in the United States; at the time, Provincetown's large congregation could support a grand church. By 1958, however, upkeep of the building was becoming a problem, and the congregation opted to construct a smaller building in a new location. Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., son of the founder of the Chrysler Corporation, bought the building and converted it into an art museum, which he ran until 1970 when he relocated his collection to Virginia. The building then operated briefly as a center for the arts before being acquired by the town for the Provincetown Heritage Museum, which was run on a seasonal basis by a dedicated group of volunteers and included among its displays a half-scale model of the schooner Rose Dorothea. Museum visitation declined beginning in the 1990s. At the same time,the Provincetown Public Library was outgrowing its own small building, resulting in the conveyance of the property to the Board of Library Trustees on April 2, 2001.

The year before, the building's deteriorated belfry had been removed for repair, and the front façade was also removed to make structural repairs. As funding was not then available to completely restore the façade, a covering of plywood and battens was installed temporarily, and some of the building's wooden architectural elements were stored for future reference. Unfortunately, the repairs failed; water penetrated the building, damaging interior walls and fixtures. The belfry was restored in 2005, and the façade was again temporarily weatherproofed, in 2007, with the help of a Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund grant. Careful restoration of the exterior was completed in 2011. Ten years after they had been removed, salvaged façade elements were restored and used to replicate missing pieces. Interior renovations included excavation and selective underpinning of the lower level, restoration of the railings on the dual entry staircases, and careful installation of new building systems. With this restoration project, the building has been returned to its former grandeur while serving the town in a new capacity.

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