By Lynne Hendricks Correspondent
---- — When the weather turns chilly and the 100-year-old canopy of oaks, maples and elm trees that line the Merrimack River come alive in brilliant shades of gold and red, Amesbury’s Point Shore neighborhood is at its best.
From the windows and porches of homes that line the shore, residents have front row seats to the seasonal transformation. And, next Saturday, 10 Point Shore neighbors are opening up their houses for the public to get a glimpse of those views — and a look inside their homes — while raising money for the restoration of the picturesque Union Congregational Church.
Organized by the Union Church Restoration Alliance, this is the second year of the Point Shore House Tour. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 13, curious admirers can step on a shuttle and be taken to and from homes all the way from Hawkswood on the east side to Hatter’s Point, and everywhere in between.
Organizer Carol Glenn hopes that along the way, participants notice the pretty white church steeple in the distance that’s stood watch over the area for almost 200 years. Struggling with declining membership and the mounting costs of maintaining the historic structure, Union Church members announced two years ago they were considering the possible closure and sale of the beloved church.
But with help from neighbors who stepped forward to set up a non-profit to receive donations and help organize fundraisers like the House Tour, there is hope that the church will remain.
“I think to see it in its setting – how important that building is to the setting of the neighborhood, and to Amesbury, it’s important,” Glenn said. “It’s not just preserving the building that matters to us, it’s ensuring that the congregation can continue to thrive in that location. I think the neighbors love seeing the steeple lit at night and they love hearing the bell ring on Sunday morning.”
Last year’s inaugural House Tour event drew more than 750 people to Point Shore, according to Glenn, and she’s hoping to see similar numbers this year.
This year’s tour includes homes in Hawkswood and Rocky Hill Road, four homes on Old Main Street, and three stops on Old Main that directly overlook the river. A special feature for those who love history, is the addition of a home located at Hatter’s Point, the condominium complex in the converted Merrimack Hat Factory, which once was the leading hat manufacturer in the world.
“It has spacious, high ceilings, and like most of the homes, it has just spectacular river views,” Glenn said. “It overlooks the marina and the river.”
Glenn said guests will enjoy the elegant library in this historic home, which features floor to ceiling bookshelves filled with the owner’s favorite works, complete with a fireplace to read them by.
Because parking is a challenge along some of Point Shore’s side streets and along Main Street, the alliance is putting two shuttles into service for the tour, which will make frequent stops to all the homes on the tour throughout the day.
An important stop along the shuttle route will be the Union Church, located at 350 Main Street, where guests can purchase prepared boxed lunches as part of the fundraiser, and tour the building.
“We’ve already restored all of the windows in the sanctuary,” Glenn said. “They’ve all been taken out, taken apart and rebuilt. Where over the years newer glass had been used it’s been replaced with antique wavy glass and that’s just being completed.”
The second big project will be the steeple, as well as some smaller projects, Glenn said.
The Alliance was happy to recently receive a grant from the Methuen Festival of Trees, Inc., which funds historic preservation projects in the Merrimack Valley, to put towards those costs. But more is needed.
“The structure seems to be sound, but there are a lot of repairs that need to be made,” she said. “The church is also in desperate need of a new furnace.”
For more information on the Point Shore House Tour, visit www.pointshorehousetour.com.
IF YOU GO What: Point Shore House Tour. When: Saturday, Oct. 13, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Where: 10 houses along Main Street, Point Shore, Amesbury. How: $25 on day of tour; $20 in advance. Visit www.pointshorehousetour.com to order. On tour day, tickets can be purchased at Union Congregational Church or Lowell's Boat Shop.