Why is the Jamesport Meeting House so important?
- Oldest building in Riverhead
- Built by the town’s pioneers
- Oldest church or public building on East End
- Connections with Puritan heritage
- Centerpiece of the community
- Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
We didn’t want to lose our most important historic landmark. We’re sure you didn’t either, but didn’t know what to do or how to help. The Jamesport Meeting House is the most significant historic structure in the town of Riverhead. It is not only the oldest building in Riverhead, but is also the oldest church or public building on the East End of Long Island. It is a remarkable example of the community coming together for a public purpose. Indeed, it is where Riverhead first came together. At the time of its construction in 1731, every known family living in what is now Riverhead Town – except for the jail keeper – contributed in one way or another. These were truly the town’s pioneers. And, through them, this ancient meeting house offers a direct connection with Riverhead’s earliest days and its Puritan heritage.
Somehow this remarkable building has survived when all the other early churches in the area have been replaced, often several times, over the centuries. The Jamesport Meeting House has been modified and altered, most significantly in 1859 when it was enlarged and a steeple was added to the original simple Puritan structure. It has long ceased to be the only church in Riverhead Town, but it is still – 286 years later – the centerpiece of the Jamesport community and the centerpiece of the Jamesport Hamlet Historic District created in 2006 by the Town Board and an individually designated town landmark – and since 2009 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2008 the community come together again to save this venerable building – just as it did in 1731 to build it. Community members formed a Preservation Trust and obtained financing from the community to purchase the building. Since then community members have donated their time and resources to make restoration and rehabilitation of this resource possible. Community businesses have donated equipment, labor, expertise and professional services. Suffolk County and the Robert David Lion Gardner Foundation provided grant funding. Much hard work lies ahead, and much money needs to be raised, but the Jamesport Meeting House is now safely back in community hands and serving the people of the North Fork and the rest of Suffolk County!