On your way to or from the WW&F, consider stopping in at the historic Head Tide Church. The church is just off Head Tide Road (connecting Routes 218 and 194) in Alna and will be open during July and August on Saturdays (and Sundays) from 2 to 4 p.m. The Head Tide Church Committee warmly welcomes everyone to stop by. Volunteers will be on hand to greet visitors and answer questions.
Known for its simple beauty and pastoral setting atop a hill overlooking the Sheepscot River and WW&F Railway grade, the historic Head Tide Church has been the subject of a number of famous artists, prominent among them Marsden Hartley, and Andrew and Jamie Wyeth. The church was dedicated on Nov. 21, 1838 when Head Tide was a bustling village supported by mills at the dam, agriculture and apple orchards, boat building, fishing and forestry.
As Head Tide grew in population, village leaders determined to build their own Congregational church so they would not have to travel the three miles to the 1789 Meeting House in Alna Center. They funded it by subscribing, or “buying,” family pews. Although the Head Tide Church differs in many respects from the “Old Meeting House,” the trompe l’oeil window behind the pulpit evokes the velvet-curtained window behind the pulpit in the Meeting House on Route 218.
For a while the church – and the community – flourished. But post Civil War urbanization and industrialization brought changes to all of New England, including Head Tide. Population decreases led to the closing of the church in the 1880s. A group was assembled in the early 20th century to rescue the building from deterioration. In 1914, the cast-iron kerosene lamp chandelier was hung in the center of the unusual barrel-vaulted ceiling, six columns of the original front façade were replaced with simple carved pilasters, and the steeple with its rare Paul Revere bell was strengthened.
While the 1940s saw decline in church use, in 1955 a new group stepped in to address many years of neglect. They secured title and assumed responsibility for upkeep. Then in 1962, lightning struck the bell and set fire to the front façade, including the steeple, and half of the roof. The Paul Revere bell crashed to the ground in pieces. Once again, the community rolled up its sleeves and provided labor and funding to rebuild the church and steeple and to acquire a new bell.
Although the church has not had an active year-round congregation for many years, it still serves Midcoast Maine as a unique venue for weddings, memorial services, lectures and musical events. The Friends of the Head Tide Church raise funds and volunteer hundreds of hours to keep this “jewel on the hill” in good condition, and we welcome visitors from across the country and around the globe with pleasure each year.
For more information please email Headtidechurch@gmail.com