Old Ship Church
The Old Ship Church (also known as the Old Ship Meetinghouse) was built in 1681 in Hingham, Massachusetts in the United States. It is the oldest church in continuous ecclesiastical use in the United States. It is the only remaining 17th century Puritan meetinghouse in America. On October 9, 1960, it was designated a National Historic Landmark and on November 15, 1966, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Old Ship Church is, according to The New York Times , "the oldest continuously worshiped-in church in North America and the only surviving example in this country of the English Gothic style of the 17th century. The more familiar delicately spired white Colonial churches of New England would not be built for more than half a century." Within the church, "the ceiling, made of great oak beams, looks like the inverted frame of a ship," notes The Washington Post. "Built in 1681, it is the oldest church in continuous use as a house of worship in North America." The most distinctive feature of the structure is its Hammerbeam roof, a Gothic open timber construction, the most well-known example that of Westminster Hall. Some of those working on the soaring structure were no doubt ship carpenters; others were East Anglians familiar with the method of constructing a hammerbeam roof.

The first minister of the Hingham congregation who built Old Ship was the Rev. Peter Hobart, who had attended the heavily Puritan Cambridge University. Natives of Hingham in Norfolk County, East Anglia, Peter Hobart, his father Edmund and his twin brother Capt. Joshua Hobart were among Hingham's most prominent early settlers. Edmund Hobart and his wife Margaret (Dewey), said Cotton Mather, "were eminent for piety and feared God above many." After 44 years of service, minister Peter Hobart died on Jan. 20, 1679, on the eve of the building of the new house of worship. Hobart's diary of events in Hingham, begun in the year 1635, was continued on his death by his son David. By the time Old Ship was built, Harvard-educated Rev. John Norton, who had been ordained by Peter Hobart, had assumed Hobart's ministry. (Rev. John Norton was the great-grandfather of Abigail Adams, wife of President John Adams of Braintree, Massachusetts.) Old Ship Church deacon John Leavitt, whose son John married Rev. Hobart's daughter Bathsheba, was deacon when Old Ship was constructed and he argued forcefully for the construction of a new meetinghouse. The matter of replacing the old thatched log meeting house stirred intense emotion in Hingham, and it took two heated town meetings to settle on a site for the new edifice, which was built on land donated by Capt. Joshua Hobart, twin brother of Rev. Peter Hobart. Ultimately, the town appropriated £430 for the new building, said to be the equal of any in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The modern frame edifice, devoid of ornamentation, was raised in 1681, and accommodated its first worship service the following year. The program celebrating the 275th anniversary of the raising of the Old Ship Church in July 1956 described the raising of the meetinghouse: The John Leavitt pew in Old Ship Church, designated for the deacon, still remains set aside today.

Current use
The current minister is Kenneth Read-Brown, a descendant of Rev. Peter Hobart. The congregation is Unitarian Universalist and is a Welcoming Congregation. Some of the meetinghouse furnishings still in use date to its founding: Old Ship's christening bowl, for instance, was made before 1600 and was likely brought to the Massachusetts Bay Colony by emigrants from Hingham, England.

Old Ship Burying Ground
Old Ship Church is surrounded by a large colonial graveyard amidst gently undulating hills. The graveyard is sometimes called the First Settlers cemetery. It was originally part of a 6-acre (24,000 m 2) tract of land granted by the town to Thomas Gill, one of Hingham's earliest settlers. (It now comprises 16 acres (65,000 m 2), and is the largest and oldest cemetery in Hingham.) Buried within its precincts are many of Hingham's earliest settlers and their descendants, including members of the Cushing, Hersey, Otis, Chaffee, Lane, Andrews, Hobart, Loring, Bates, Leavitt, Thaxter, Tower, Beal, Lincoln, Fearing and other prominent early families. Among the prominent individuals buried in the graveyard are: Thomas Joy (1638”“1678), builder of the first statehouse in Boston (the building was built of timber); Rev. Peter Hobart (1604”“1679), pastor of Old Ship Church, ancestor of Senator John Kerry; Edmund Hobart, father of Rev. Peter, instrumental in founding Hingham, ancestor of John Henry Hobart; William Hersey, one of Hingham's first settlers, ancestor of writer John Hersey; Col. Samuel Thaxter (1665”“1740), one of "His Majesty's Council and Col. of His Regiment," delegate to the General Court and Hingham selectman; Col. Benjamin Lincoln (1699”“1771), member of "His Majesty's Council," town selectman, town clerk and father of Major General Benjamin Lincoln; Mrs. Sarah Langley Hersey Derby (1714”“1790), founder of Derby Academy in Hingham, widow of Dr. Ezekiel Hersey and of Salem merchant Richard Derby, father of Elias Hasket Derby; Mary Revere Lincoln (1770”“1853), daughter of Paul Revere; Governor John Albion Andrew (1818”“1867), Civil War governor of Massachusetts, instrumental in founding the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Regiments, the first regiments of black infantry in the Civil War; Wilmon Brewer (1895”“1998), philanthropist, poet, donated Old Ordinary tavern to the town of Hingham, along with the More-Brewer Conservation Area; Solomon Lincoln (1804”“1881), Hingham attorney, author of first history of Hingham (1827), state senator, president of Boston's Webster Bank, and president of the Hingham Cemetery Corporation. The oldest burials date from at least 1672, before the building of the current meeting house. The Settlers' Monument in Old Ship burying ground marks the place where the remains of Hingham's earliest settlers were moved after their initial burying place along modern-day Main Street, in front of Old Ship Church, was excavated for the passage of horse-drawn trolleys about 1835.

Building Activity

  • removed a media
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com