The Union Society was formed on January 30th, 1837. The Society's purpose was to build a Meeting House to serve as a church for five different denominations, including the Methodists, Congregationalists, Spiritualists, and Baptists. The church was completed in 1840.
"The Great Convention", which featured a speech by abolitionist Frederick Douglass about freedom and equality, took place in the Brick Meeting House in 1843. The Meeting House stood next door to the Union Meeting Hall. The meeting did not take place in the Union Meeting Hall as church elders were concerned that rowdy individuals would damage the property, much like what had happened in Middlebury days before.
The Union Society held church services for almost 60 years. By 1898, the two largest of the original congregations had built their own churches and left the Society. Without the support of the various congregations The Union Society was no longer financially viable.
By 1898 the Meeting House had become too small for public gatherings and the Town realized they needed a bigger space to meet. They agreed to purchase the larger Union Meeting Hall next door for use as a Town Hall. The Meeting House was then sold for bricks. After purchasing the Union Meeting Hall the wood shingle roof was replaced with a slate one, which is what you still see today.
With the construction of the Ferrisburgh Central School complete in 1958 the Town began using the school's gym for larger meetings. During this time the Town Clerk's office moved from the clerk's house to the old School House, which now serves as the Ferrisburgh Historical Society. The Town's Clerk's office moved to the Town Hall and Community Center, formerly the Grange Hall, in 2008.
The Christian Reformed Church leased the building until 1976 when they built their own church in New Haven.
On Sunday, July 11th the steeple was struck by lightning and heavily damaged by fire. The quick action of the fire department prevented the fire from spreading to the large wooden beams that make up the roof structure. After the steeple was rebuilt the property was added to the National Registry of Historic Places.
The Champlain Valley Table Tennis Club leased the building for roughly 20 years. Tables were set-up on the floor and on the stage. A ball server was also mounted in the balcony to serve balls to the players.
Crossroads Chapel leased the building for roughly 5 years until the congregation disbanded.
The Friends of the Union Meeting Hall was formed in order to rehabilitate the Union Meeting while making it a cornerstone of the community again.
On August 6th, 2021 the steeple of the Union Meeting Hall was removed for repairs. The steeple, rebuilt after being struck by lightning and damaged by fire in 1976, was in need of repairs to replace progressive rot.
On September 25th, 2021 the steeple of the Union Meeting Hall was put back on top of the building just in time for Ferrisburgh Day, with festivities set to begin the following morning.
Construction has began to add a permanent ADA compliant second exit/entrance on the north side of the building. Although the Town has installed a temporary ADA ramp, entry through the historic front doors is challenging as they are not wide enough for a wheelchair, which limits our ability to provide inclusive community programming. The addition of the new second entrance/exit will also allow us to increase the capacity of the building while also enabling the FUMH to host larger events, serving even more members of the community. In addition to private philanthropic support this project is supported in part by the Vermont Arts Council and the State of Vermont as well as the Walter Cerf Community Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation. The project is slated to be completed by March 2023.
The original 181-year-old windows have been removed and are currently being restored offsite. In addition, any rot on the exterior trim will be removed and painted and any damaged interior window stops will be repaired this spring. Once the windows are replaced customer storm windows will be installed to protect the windows from the elements. This project was supported in part by the MK Taylor Foundation, The Millstone Foundation and private philanthropic support. This project is slated to be finished by spring 2023.
Silas Towler, President of the Ferrisburgh Historical Society, discusses the rich history of the Union Meeting Hall. His research of historical archives highlighted all the different types of events that took place at the property through the years. This presentation was given in the Union Meeting Hall in the summer of 2019.