The Building as Unitarian Church
By 1890, Somerville’s Davis Square was booming and in need of a Unitarian church.
Many households were of the Unitarian faith, but the nearest churches were in Harvard Square and Highland Avenue. A wooden chapel vacated by Davis Square Baptists provided a temporary home. By the turn of the twentieth century, the Second Unitarian Church actively pursued buying property near the chapel. They established a building fund made up of donations from other Protestant congregations, proceeds from bake sales, and money from their own people. In March of 1909, they purchased Lot #198 of the former Powder House Farm.
The church building was constructed within sixteen months from plans by McLean & Whitney.
The Boston firm specialized in neoclassical Carnegie library buildings, and designed the West Somerville Library farther down the road, too. The Second Unitarian Church was in the English chapel style, featuring a white stucco exterior over a wooden frame. A box filled with the Society's history along with local newspapers was placed in the cornerstone. Diffused light filtered through the opalescent glass windows into a two-hundred seat auditorium and basement-level kitchen.
At the beginning of November, the church was dedicated in a joyful yet simple ceremony.
Louis E. Merry, chairman of the building committee and a guiding member of the Board of Trade, listened to the choir sing in the open air. Rev. Mr. Eliot, the minister, delivered the main address, focusing on the openness of the congregation:
This church shows consideration for others. Its people are optimists.
They believe in the good of human nature.... Here is...a house where
higher hopes and ideals are to be nourished..... Strangers may come
and find a home with open minded and open-hearted people.
In later years the church would embrace diversity by specializing in a variety of guest lecturers.
During 1916 Swami Paramananda and Sister Devamata expanded the horizons of West Somerville people by discussing the hardships of daily life in India. The congregation constantly reached out to different cultures. But the golden years passed. The parish lost momentum in the 1920s as the founding families moved on or members died. By 1930 it was painfully evident that the church building would have to be sold and the remaining parishioners transferred to the First Universalist Church. The structure was ready to be adapted to another use.