The Free Meeting House in Moncton, New Brunswick shares the same downtown 20 Mountain Road address with the Moncton Museum. Both attractions are closed for extensive renovation or expansion but Mélanie strikes up a fortuitous conversation with a gentleman who has just completed an on-site, outdoor management meeting with construction contractors. He becomes our impromptu guide and opens the Free Meeting House for our exclusive viewing. Additionally, he gives his time to share extensive knowledge of this historic structure originally built in 1821 as an omni-denominational place of worship for international immigrants and religions.
The historic building rests graciously under a massive, ancient oak tree, and a large brass plaque beside the entrance sidewalk provides a brief overview of the building’s purpose and history. Great community progress was architected here as various religions and leadership groups routinely gathered for more than 140 years, long past the original mandate of providing a common meeting place until individual churches could be built. Perhaps there may be an important historical message here about the axiomatic value of synergistic effort.
The interior of the Free Meeting House has been fully restored and is overwhelming austere with bland colors and lack of symbols and ornamentation. The historic structure is truly non-denominational with a focus on people working together. The New Brunswick Centennial restoration of 1990 includes a small glass-covered panel on the wall which shows a portion of plaster wall and the underlying, hand-hewn lattice, fitting together like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
Immediately outside the front door there is a single, sombre and touching tombstone for Mary Moore Kelly who departed this world on May 15, 1890 at the tender age of 2 years and 1 month. There may be no greater human reverence than that for the loss of innocent children. Behind the Free Meeting House many tombstones stand proud in defiance of time. Some retain faint images of their acknowledgement. A few are weather-worn to a blank slate. It is likely historical records may reveal their identity.
The Free Meeting House has a dignified, calm and relaxing feel about it. I did not get the name of our gracious, extremely knowledgeable and impromptu host but I remain thankful for this unique opportunity to learn more about Maritime history and the early development of the City of Moncton. There are endless stories to hear and tell.
The Free Meeting House was designated as a National Historic Site on June 1, 1990.