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Pilgrim Church in Uphams Corner on National Register of Historic Places

On December 18, 2013, Pilgrim Trinitarian Congregational Church in Uphams Corner was added to the National Register of Historic Places.  Officially marking the building's importance to the history of the community, the designation will also open additional funding sources for much needed repairs.  Pilgrim Church continues its call to action in the community through its service to the homeless, its food ministry and its spiritual programs.

Pilgrim ChurchDecember 18, 2013 marked an historic turning point for Pilgrim Church on Columbia Road in Dorchester.  That was the date the church was accepted onto the National Register of Historic Places. 

According to Rev. John Odam's, pastor of the church, "A key point in our significance is that this building is reflective of the changes that were happening in Dorchester in the late 1800's (after annexation to Boston)."

He added, "Not only does this designation create a permanent recognition of the local church's historical significance but it also opens up funding sources specifically designed for historic structures."

Pilgrim church was highlighted by the National Register for its age but also for its design by noted architect, Stephen Carpenter Earle. 

Pilgrim Trinitarian Congregational Church was founded in 1863 in Dorchester on Stoughton Street.  Construction of the new church at 540 Columbia Rd. in Uphams Corner began in 1890 and was completed in 1893.

Historically, the church stands at an historic turning point for the neighborhood of Dorchester as it moved from rural community to suburban Boston neighborhood. 

A Year's Work in Progress

Work to achieve the historical status began in September 2012 when the church applied to the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) for emergency funds. Although this request was denied, MHC offered to fund (and facilitate) the church's "nomination" to the National Register. In May 2013, MHC contracted with an expert who did the research, filled out applications and in general handled the application process for the church.  The final application was sent October 2, 2013.

For the parishioners and for the Friends of the Pilgrim Church, the news of the church's designation brings a sense of pride and renewed hope that the extensive upgrades and repairs can and will be done and that the building structure will continue to add to the history and culture of the neighborhood as well as serve the spiritual needs of the community.

The National Register was established under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and is administered in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

The National Register performs an important function by helping our nation retain authentic ties with its past. It is the nation's official list of buildings, sites, structures and objects that retain their historical character. Everything on the national register is considered important to local, state or national history.

Fund raising Towards the Future

United Church of ChristThe church has seen a physical decline over the years and has struggled to meet the costly challenges of significant repairs.  Two recent repairs may portend an up tick in the church's ability to maintain its physical structure.
  • The roof and gutters were replaced in 2009 bringing a halt to the damage to interior walls.
  • The large stained glass window at the front of the church, destroyed by a fire in 1970, was replaced by a simple but tasteful window
The historical designation hopefully provides an opportunity to move beyond emergency repairs to much-needed structural improvements enabled by historic grants and a push towards fundraising.

Pilgrim Church is a small but active spiritual community, serving Uphams Corner with a strong emphasis on homelessness and food ministry.
  •      Since 1990, there has been an emergency shelter for homeless men.
  •      Saturdays, a free lunch is served to the community from noon to 1:30pm.
  •      There is a Thrift Shop from Tuesday to Friday (2pm-6pm) and Saturdays (10a-3p).
  •      Free bread is distributed Tuesday to Friday, beginning at 9:30am until supplies run-out.
  •      There is a Food Pantry (accessed by calling the Foodsource Hotline of Project Bread, 1-800-645-8333. 
  •      Worship Services are on Sunday at 11am, and Bible Study is on Wednesday at 1pm. 
  •      Pilgrim Church also hosts Bethel Church of God Seventh Day on Saturdays and Recreated Church on Sunday afternoons.

Posted: February 8, 2014     Nancy J Conrad

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