Universalist Church, Rust St.

  • Universalist Church, Rust St.
  • Cousins, Frank, 1851-
  • Photo shows the Universalist Church on Rust St. in Salem, erected in 1808-1809.

    In 1805, the first meetings of the Universalist Society were held and by 1807, the membership had grown to 300. Land was purchased in 1807 on Rust St. to build a church. "The first Universalist Meetinghouse is one of the most outstanding Federal-era ecclesiastical structures surviving in Essex County. The front projecting gable pavilion, above which rises a square balustraded bell tower, is particularly noteworthy", according to Bryant F. Tolles in his book, Architecture in Salem.

    Modifications were made in the building in 1826 and 1839 (basement enlarged and renovated). In 1877/78, under the architect William D. Dennis (1847-1913), the sanctuary was done over.

    In front of the parish house is the Thomas Perkins House(c.1811), a two-story brick Federal dwelling, the only one of its type left in Salem. The building was saved from demolition in 1968, when its owner, Bessie Munroe, refused to vacate the premises.

    The church is a member of the Unitarian-Universalist Association, a liberal Protestant denomination.

    The church was forced to close its sanctuary for renovation in 1988 when a sagging support beam made it unsafe for habitation. A year and a half later, they opened the newly restored sanctuary. The First Universalist Church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

    Due to a decline in membership numbers, the First Universalist Church in Salem has stopped having church services as of May 2015. The building will still be up-kept as a non-profit.
  • 1891-1901
  • Frank Cousins Art Co.
  • No copyright restrictions.


Cousins, Frank, 1851-, “Universalist Church, Rust St.,” Salem Public Library, accessed September 25, 2020, https://digitalheritage.noblenet.org/salem/items/show/64.


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