A History of Woodfords
The first Woodfords Church opened its doors in 1872 across Woodford Street (then known as Spring Street) from the site of the present Parish House. A congregational society had been formed in 1867 by residents of the neighborhood, some of whom belonged to the Fourth Parish which met at the old Bradley Meeting House on Capisic Street. Their pastor, The Reverend Caleb Bradley (1772-1861) was a legendary and forceful preacher and community leader. His diaries are at the Maine Historical Society, and local history records many anecdotes about him.
Until 1871, Woodfords Corner was part of the town of Westbrook. A separate town, Deering, was formed and existed until 1899, when the area was absorbed into the city of Portland.
The first Woodfords Church was designed by Francis Fassett and E.F. Fassett, who designed many distinctive and characteristic buildings in Portland, including Williston West Church. The men of the parish cleared the land and built the foundation, the women made carpeting and pew cushions, and everyone participated in fund-raising activities such as community suppers. The bell was donated by two daughters of early settler James Deering. The church was completed and dedicated on April 14, 1872.
By the mid-nineteen twenties, the average Sunday School attendance (including children’s and adults’ classes) reached 1178, and the Parish House was built and dedicated in 1926. The Maine Sunday Telegram praised the new building as “a model plant for complete activities in the modern church life.” The three-story building has a large hall (Memorial Hall), kitchens, meeting rooms of various sizes, offices, and classrooms. From 1926 until the present, the Parish House at Woodfords has been a community resource where many non-profit groups meet.
The present Church and the Cloister were dedicated in 1956, and the Meloon Chapel in 1957. From the Cloister, you may observe or enter a formal garden sheltered between the Sanctuary and the Chapel. The garden contains a number of memorial plants and furnishings.
Music has always played an important part in worship at Woodfords. The first organ was installed in 1880, replacing a melodeon. The original organ was purchased in New Hampshire and was estimated to be 75 to 90 years old then (in 1880). It served Woodfords another sixty-two years. The present organ was installed in 1946 in the old church, then moved across the street when the new church was built in 1956. The organ was extensively refurbished in 1999.
Our Church and Parish House are at times used by other denominations as a meeting place when their own facilities are not large enough, and by individuals and families for important occasions. Many people from all walks of life are guests at weddings and memorial services, educational, commemorative, and support meetings here. Woodfords Church, with its bright steeple visible from so many places in the city, is honored to be a place of community in Portland.
© Janet Joyce 2002
Sources: Pittman, Linwood T.: One Hundred Years of Woodfords Church, 1972;
Woodfords Church archives
Woodfords Congregational Church
United Church of Christ
202 Woodford Street
Portland, Maine 04103
©2012 Woodfords Congregational Church