First Baptist Shares Plans

  • Architectural renderings of a proposed building to serve the First Baptist Church of Lebanon. courtesy Althouse, Jaffe & Associates Courtesy Althouse, Jaffe & Associates

  • The First Baptist Church in Lebanon, N.H., in an undated photograph. (Lebanon Historical Society photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/4/2017 12:07:57 AM
Modified: 8/4/2017 12:08:05 AM

Lebanon — The white steeple that once adorned the First Baptist Church, rising above the roofs of School Street, soon could be revived under recently unveiled plans for a new church building.

A large steeple isn’t the only feature architects working to design the new building borrowed from its predecessor, the remains of which were razed in the wake of an arson that destroyed the structure in December.

Renderings for the new church depict a Gothic Revival-style exterior and large windows to draw natural light, features congregants will find familiar.

But those plans are dependent on approval from the Lebanon Planning Board, which is scheduled to review the design during its Aug. 14 meeting. Planning Board approval is the final stage of city review needed before construction can begin.

There also is concern from parishioners that the church might not have enough money to construct the steeple, which is why the building is designed to stand without the feature, according to Jack Althouse of the Pennsylvania-based Althouse, Jaffe & Associates architectural firm.

“My goal was to design a church that fit into the community architecturally,” Althouse said of the proposed building.

Althouse, who is nationally known for designing churches, said he drew inspiration from churches throughout New England.

The new church will be built on the same downtown Lebanon site as the previous church, which dated to 1870. With the steeple in place, it would stand at a little more than 83 feet tall and would occupy more than an estimated 12,000 square feet of the roughly quarter-acre lot.

That’s roughly the same square footage as the former building, Althouse said, but it won’t be a carbon copy.

The building’s footprint is more square than its rectangular-shaped predecessor, meaning Althouse was able to add several modern features.

Inside, a large lobby will greet visitors and churchgoers. The space is a growing trend among churches, Althouse said, giving congregations a place to meet and a space where people can participate in services without actually being in the sanctuary.

“Often people have to excuse themselves during worship,” Althouse said, adding that the lobby allows such people to remain in the building.

There are plans to do away with church pews in favor of chairs installed in a semicircle, he said. A balcony will be built in the sanctuary, and the worship platform will have enough space to accommodate live music.

“It should be a really inspiring place to worship in,” Althouse said.

The congregation also asked that the building include classrooms physically separated by walls and a kitchen, according to Althouse. In the old building, members were forced to use dividers to separate educational programs, he said.

Although church moderator Keith Davio hasn’t yet seen the plans submitted to the city, he’s been pleased with renderings brought to the congregation, which has been meeting weekly at the Lebanon Middle School since the fire.

“(Althouse) seems to have incorporated the majority of what we’re looking for,” Davio said in a phone interview on Thursday. “Our building committee has put a lot of time and effort into that. They’ve got a good product.”

Davio declined to say how much the building is expected to cost or how much money the church was able to collect from its insurance company after the fire. He said completion of the classrooms also might be dependent on funding.

Aside from large windows and a new exterior, there also are plans for minor landscaping and a patio on the property, according to Rod Finley of Pathways Consulting. One American elm and six crabapple trees are proposed for the site, he said.

Because the building is grandfathered, it will not be required to meet current parking standards or conform to maximum height requirements in the city’s Residential 2 zoning district, Lebanon Zoning Administrator Tim Corwin said.

The proposal garnered city Zoning Board approval in June, when the church requested a special exception for its new footprint.

If all goes well, construction could begin in September and the building could be ready for use as early as next summer, Althouse said earlier this spring.

For Lebanon resident Linda Armstrong, construction would be a welcome site. Armstrong’s house on Green Street sits across from the former church site, which now is fenced off.

“I want to see the church put back there. I don’t like looking at the hole,” she said, looking out from her porch on Thursday. “It’s totally weird not having the church there.”

Tim Camerato can be reached at or 603-727-3223.

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