The 139-year-old Bethel Point Church in Harpswell was damaged after the house next door caught fire early last Friday morning. The church now has a hole in the roof and in a wall, and water damage. (Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record)

BATH — It’s uncertain whether a 139-year-old church in Harpswell damaged last week by a fire next door will be repaired.

The Bethel Point Church suffered extensive damage, according to Ben Wallace, Cundy’s Harbor and Orr’s and Bailey Island fire chief, after a neighboring house caught fire last Friday.

Built in 1880, the single-story clapboard church now has holes in the roof and the wall closest to the fire, as well as water damage, which will only get worse as temperatures dip.

“(The church) is still structurally sound, but it’s an old building so it doesn’t take much,” said Wallace. “I would classify it as significant damage.”

The 139-year-old church was assessed at $299,100 last year, according to municipal records. The land alone, located at 304 Bethel Point Road at the end of Sebascodegan Island, was appraised at $127,000 last year.

Early last Friday, the house next door, which was once a one-room schoolhouse, caught fire, displacing owners Tyler Brodie and Louise Sturges,  Sgt. Ken Grimes of the state fire marshal’s office said Tuesday. Both were taken to Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick where they were treated and released, according to a hospital spokesperson. Grimes said Brodie had a broken ankle and Sturges suffered smoke inhalation. The cause of the fire is unknown.


According to Tiffany Link, a research librarian at the Maine Historical Society, there are no records of the building being used consistently as a church.

“The building may have been used as a church or meeting house, but does not appear to have had a sustained congregation,” said Link.

To maintain its status as a Baptist church and stay exempt from taxes, the church must hold at least one service every two years. The church does have an annual Christmas service, according to David Warton, who lives down the road.

Warton said whether the church will be repaired is unknown, but those who live on Bethel Point Road may raise money to fund the repairs.

“I’m willing to contribute,” said Warton.

C.S. Tobey Sr., whose grandfather was a preacher at the church in the 1940s, remembers attending services and weddings there. 

“We used to have a lot of people from the islands come attend church,” said Tobey. “After we’d have gatherings and people would come sing.” 

Tobey said the church was built by a man named John Gould, and the church still does not have electricity.

“It’s debatable what will happen now,” said Tobey. We need a fairy godmother to come down now. It’s tired and needs a lot of work. ” 

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