Nathan Church House
The original headquarters of the Rufus Porter Museum from 2005 - 2016, the Church house was built circa 1790 as the first parsonage for the Congregational Church on High Street.
Nathan Church, a relation of two of Bridgton's founding families, the Perleys and the Peabodys, took up residence in this house in c.1794, which then stood on South High Street and served as minister for about 40 years.
In 1840 the house was moved by Augustus Perley to the foot of Highland Lake, where Shorey Park is now. It became a home for the Gibbs Woolen Mill workers. Slated for demolition in 1985, Tom Johnson, current Executive Director of Victoria Mansion, and his family purchased the building and moved it to North High Street where it stood until 2016.
The Johnsons saved the building and uncovered painted landscape murals in the Rufus Porter style in the parlor and front vestibule. The murals have been attributed to Rufus Porter and/or his nephew Jonathan Poor painted circa 1828. Following lessons from art restoration expert Christie Cunningham, Johnson worked on restoring the murals. In the front alcove, most of the plaster was missing except the left wall, so Johnson re-created a mural to fill the area based on what was remaining of the original mural. The front foyer murals are both a recreation and a restoration of the murals.
Two interesting discoveries were made while preparing the house for moving back up the hill in 1985. First, bored holes were found in the front boards of the house. These would have been where chains or ropes were attached so that oxen could pull the house to the foot of Highland Lake in 1840. This method is consistent with the manner of moving houses during the 19th century. Then renovator Tom Johnson found a brick with the date of 1789 in the chimney, strongly suggesting when the house may have been built. Another interesting discovery is that the now papered ceiling was reportedly once painted a shade of blue. If indeed it is, it would be a very exciting find, as Rufus Porter Style mural rooms were not known to have painted ceilings.
The house made a third and final historic move on November 2, 2016 a quarter mile down the road, past its former location at Shorey Park to its new home on the corner of Church and Main Streets. It is now part of the museum's new headquarters at 121 Main Street sitting behind the Webb House facing Church Street.