Another Burton legacy

Bath Congregational Church added to state historic register

November 26, 2013
BATH — Eight days after Councilor Ray Burton died, the church where he was a lifelong member was added to the state's historic register.

Burton's hometown church has been a community beacon for generations. Church members partnered with the state on preservation efforts for several years, according to Elizabeth Muzzey, Director of the NH Division of Historic Resources. Of the congregation, Muzzey said last week, "They have worked so hard to preserve that beautiful, iconic building."

Prior to his death on November 12, Burton worked with constituents and Muzzey's office to add the church to the state register. Muzzey said a student from Plymouth State University helped with the application, as well.

A Congregational church started in Bath in 1791. The current building has stood along Route 302 since 1873. The church is the town's first entry on the state's historic register.

Church trustee Duane Baxter said the town's historical society had done some research over the years on getting the entire village area registered. After some discussion, a decision was made to pursue the church's application for the register. Baxter said "a packet of information an inch thick" was put together to support the church's listing.

After a special meeting of the State Historic Resources Council, the state added Bath Congregational to the register on November 20. Muzzey said, "It was terrific that it could come together that quickly."

Baxter said several architectural features make the church historically significant. The Gothic Revival style is rare to find these days, he said. Use of pressed tin and fleur-de-lis are other stylistic highlights, Baxter said.

Even with his busy schedule as Executive Councilor and a county commissioner, Burton found time for his church. Baxter said Burton humbly served the congregation.

Burton really enjoyed playing the church organ, Baxter continued. "He did that diligently every Sunday," Baxter recalled, with few absences over thirty years.

Additionally, Burton was a church deacon. He also waited tables for church suppers, greeted tourists with an interest in the church, sang in the choir, and worked as an usher, Baxter said. Burton "was always a willing worker, and so humble," Baxter concluded.

Muzzey said a special aspect of the church, in addition to fine architecture, is the warm feeling the congregation has created. She said members have "really welcomed the entire community" over the years.

Baxter said the women's fellowship does much to foster the church's reputation as a community servant. Letters of welcome and words to comfort the sick are common activities of the fellowship group, Baxter said.

The church also provides meeting space for several area organizations, Baxter continued. "It truly is a community church," he noted.

Muzzey complimented the church congregation for the historic register designation. "We were well aware that they cared deeply for their building," she said. Muzzey was especially glad the state could honor Burton's church.

Baxter thanked the state, PSU, and Burton for the effort to place Bath Congregational on the state historic register. He called the listing, "another tribute to Councilor Burton." Serving as Burton's church for so long is special, Baxter said. "The town is forever grateful for that," he concluded.

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