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Ocean Park's Oldest Historic Treasure


Image: TempleThe Temple at Ocean Park is the principal Ocean Park programming facility. On April 28, 1975, it was entered into the National Register of Historic Places, the nation's official list of historic places important to our history and worthy of preservation. The Temple is a multipurpose building, used for a variety of cultural, educational, and religious programs during the ten or eleven week assembly season.

The building was originally known as the "Way of Truth Temple." This name is still in use on town and county records. On many Sunday mornings it is filled to capacity, approximately 800 people, with additional seating on the benches in the grove beside the Temple. In earlier years, the two side rooms, off the stage, had seating for additional worshipers and there were 35 benches outdoors. In those days, total capacity was 1,450. All of the furnishings are moveable, providing greater flexibility for programming.

Interdenominational Sunday services feature speakers with national reputations. The Temple services have also been known throughout the years for their outstanding music program, featuring the fifty voice Temple Choir with Jerry Scheinfeld as director and organist. In addition, the Temple Junior Choir , the Temple Bell Choir, and the Temple Brass Ensemble enhance the services.

An Unusual and Flexible Design The octagonal shape of the Temple was a popular design at the time the building was constructed. There is an octagonal house on Saco Avenue in Old Orchard Beach as a well as a few octagonal towers on local houses. The design was evident in the White Mountain area of New Hampshire and there are still several octagonal barns in Vermont. Many Chautauqua sites have at least one octagonal building. Two notable sites are Chautauqua, New York and Ocean Grove, New Jersey. At the time of construction, the Temple was, and still is, one of the largest octagonal buildings in existence. The symmetry of the design and the unique extended post and beam superstructure lend a particular architectural appeal to the building.

The Temple was built in 1881 by James Bickford, a builder from Portland. The firm of Dow and Wheeler drew up the plans, charging $27.50 for the work. Construction began on June 6, 1881 and the building was dedicated on August 2, 1881. The total cost of construction was $3,550, with an additional charge of $42.00 for shutters. The original benched, many still in use, cost $.30 per linear foot with 200 chairs included as a discount. In 1927 the Temple stage was built into the rear extension, expanding seating on the main floor by 300 seats. In 1986 the stage was expanded and in 1989 improvements were made in the lighting. An FM system was installed to assist the hearing impaired during Sunday morning worship, programs, and special events. The Heritage Challenge Capital Fund Drive restored the Temple and provided for 21st century amenities including new plumbing and fixtures and a state-of-the-art sprinkler system.

Temple Organ and Piano The "new" Temple organ is a tracker organ built by David Wallace of Gorham, Maine. The console was built by Stanley Griskivich of Cousins Island, Maine. The wood is cherry with stop jams of mahogany.

The wind chests are from three organs built a long time ago. The first chest, on the left, was built in 1867 by George Sevens of Boston and was previously part of the organ used in the Methodist Church in South Berwick, Maine. The center chest was built by Elias and George Hook of Boston in 1954. It was originally built for St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire and was last used in Trinity Episcopal Church, Portland, Maine. The chest on the right was built by Hook and Hastings, also of Boston, circa 1870. The organ has 26 ranks of pipes.

A new Young Chang grand piano was acquired in 1988. Funding was provided through the contributions of those who attended Sunday worship services that year.

Temple Carillon The Stewart Shuster Carillon was installed in 2008. Named in honor of Ocean Park's music director of 49 years, it was dedicated upon his retirement. The Verdin electronic bells toll daily at Noon and 5:00 pm. The carillon is also used for worship services and special functions and ceremonies in Ocean Park. Temple Square Porter Hall, built in 1902 is located to the west of the Temple. Jordan Hall, to the east, was built in 1915. The Bell Tower, located between the Temple and Jordan Hall, was built in 1882. All four structures are on 24 lots of land set aside in the original Ocean Park plan for Assembly use and are collectively known as Temple Square.

The land across the street from the Temple, both front and rear, remains vacant as in the original plan. It is preserved in this way to prevent encroachment upon the Assembly building and as well as to give the entire area its park-like effect. All four buildings were entered into the National Register of Historic Places on March 2, 1982, as the Ocean Park Historic Buildings.



2017 Summer Season