Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2012 Preservation Award Winners
Unity Church of North Easton • Easton

Unity Church of North Easton • Easton

Rehabilitation & Restoration

Unity Church, constructed in 1875, was a gift to the Unitarian Society of North Easton by Oliver Ames II, president of the Ames Shovel Factory. The imposing granite building was designed in the Gothic Revival style by Ames's nephew, John Ames Mitchell, best known as the founder of Life magazine. Unity Church contains two of John La Farge's largest stained-glass windows, as well as windows by Mitchell, William McPherson, and Charles Connick. Other works include a hand-carved oak screen by Johannes Kirchmayer, renovations by Henry Vaughan, sculptures and memorials by Truman Bartlett and H. H. Richardson, and a landscape design by Ernest Bowditch.

In 2005, after numerous leaks had led to interior finish damage, the Unity Church Building Committee invested in a professional conditions survey. The study found that the steeple was unstable, original copper valleys and flashing were weathered paper-thin and perforated, the roof slate was friable, and granite mortar joints had failed in 75% of the building, all leading to a destructive cycle of water infiltration. In addition, mortar had deteriorated to the point that joints were supporting healthy vegetation. Using a Massachusetts Preservation Project Funds grant, Community Preservation Act funds, and private donations, the committee embarked on a six-year plan to restore and preserve the building. Masonry was repointed and repaired, cracked or missing pieces of granite were replaced with stone quarried from original sources, and the roof was replaced with matching slate. New copper flashing was installed, and coping stones, cresting, finials, and exterior woodwork were all restored. Building Conservation Associates matched replacement mortar to the original buff color, and paint analysis determined the color for wooden sash. Sixteen stained-glass windows were removed for restoration; the windows now have a protective glazing and are vented to prevent lead deterioration. Accessibility, safety, and environmental concerns were addressed with new HVAC and accessible bathrooms. On the interior, plaster and intricate stencilwork, damaged by leaks, were repaired and repainted. The project has restored the church to its former proud appearance.

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