236 Commercial Street

236 Commercial Street, Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, by David W. Dunlap (2008).

236 Commercial Street, Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, by David W. Dunlap (2008).

Simply put, the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House (formerly the Church of the Redeemer or First Universalist Church), is the most beautiful building in town — inside and out. It’s been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972. It’s so revered that its steeple is called the Sir Christopher Wren Tower, after the 17th-century architect who transformed London. Unlike three other surviving church buildings downtown, the U.U. still serves as a house of worship, now under the Rev. Kate Wilkinson. The Greek Revival-style sanctuary was built in 1847. The steeple, added 10 years later, was not sufficiently supported to stand in sandy soil. Steel reinforcements were placed under it in 1999, but its northeasterly inclination (noticeable in the picture) was not corrected, out of concern for what even a bit of torquing might do to the plasterwork.

236 Commercial Street, Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, by David W. Dunlap (2008).

236 Commercial Street, Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, by David W. Dunlap (2008).

Don’t miss a visit to the sanctuary. The entire room was painted very convincingly in trompe l’oeil style by Carl Wendte of Germany. Try looking at the chancel alcove and telling yourself it’s a flat wall. Visitors are welcome during business hours and, of course, on Sunday mornings.

During the influenza epidemic of 1918, the church became an infirmary. In 1985, as membership fell, the Rev. Kim Crawford-Harvie arrived and helped revitalize the congregation. Ten years later, it established a dedicated AIDS ministry. The U.U. is host to a lively variety of groups and purposes, including 12-step meetings. The Soup Kitchen in Provincetown started here. It’s a treasured performance space, too, with fine acoustics and a restored 1850 Holbrook tracker organ. Among others, the U.U. Meeting House Theatre has featured Hedda Lettuce (Steven Polito), not your usual ecclesiastical figure.


More than 2,000 buildings and vessels are searchable on buildingprovincetown.com. The Building Provincetown book is available for purchase ($20) at Town Hall, Office of the Town Clerk, 260 Commercial Street, Provincetown 02657.

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