First Congregational Church,

Orwell, Vermont


On entering the building through the south facing main door, one passes into a east-west running hall with stairs at each end leading south to the balcony and belfry. Just to the west and on the north side of the hall is a door to the stairs to the basement. Farther west and also on the north side of the hall is the door to the audience hall. There is also a matching door to the east.

The audience hall is floored with narrow, dark brown painted planks oriented east-west, except in the aisles between the pews where they are north-south. The pews are white painted wood with rails of unpainted varnished trim. The pew doors have been removed. In the chancel the altar is on a raised semicircular area set against the north wall. The altar is framed by two half-height pilasters joined by an arch with a decorative keystone, all of which are covered in plaster. Where the wall meets the ceiling there is a simple, white painted, wooden cornice running the entire circumference of the room. The flat ceiling is plaster with a large, decorative oval floral medallion in the center. From the center of the medallion, an elaborate baroque metal chandelier is suspended. Formerly a kerosene fired chandelier, it now uses electricity to illuminate the large glass globes. The style of the chandelier is repeated in paired lights mounted half way up the north side of each of the stained glass windows.

The basement level can be reached either through the door in the east wall or from the stairs leading to the main floor. The northwest corner is devoted to a carpeted classroom and can be entered either from the east west hall which bisects this floor, or through the large double sliding wooden doors, which give access to the northwest room. This room is currently a day care facility. A small kitchen has been placed at the west end of the main entrance hall. The stair on the south side of this hall near the kitchen gives access to the main floor of the church. To reach the furnace, one must exit the building and enter through the exterior door.

The balcony is reached by stairs at each end of the entrance hall. The stairs have an unpainted wood balustrade with cylindrical balusters. The newels are elaborately turned with wide, flat, circular newel caps, which have a raised dome shaped center. The stairs make two right angle turns and one enters the balcony facing the altar. The balcony has only two stages and row of pews on each stage. It has a solid wood railing with a slightly sloped surface. There is a slight projection to the balcony in the center section to make space for the organist and to cover the stairway to the basement.

The center of the balcony is dominated by a very well preserved Hook tracker pipe organ, which was installed in 1865. The organ pipes are elaborately painted with a decorative band across the center of each pipe. The old pump handle for forcing air through the pipes is still in place although the organ now uses electricity. The corners of the projecting area of the balcony are flanked by wooden sheathed steel pillars, which were installed in 1985 to support the belfry.