Building Business: The Meeting House at Redbrook
Plimoth Plantation, the second permanent English settlement in America, was also an early example of an intentional, planned community, though its needs and vision were both more severe than its modern descendents. For starters, its religious requirements were rigorous, and its gates—constructed of eight-foot poles, sharpened to deadly points—were more intimidating than any quaint rock wall or picket fence. Town planners, including William Bradford, whose journal provides the basis for much of our understanding of the village, chose an abandoned Wampanoag cornfield, built fortifications, and arranged houses along a “high way” that led uphill to a meeting house. In 1628, Isaack de Rasieres, chief Trading Agent for the Dutch West India Company, described this structure as “a large square house with a flat roof, built of thick sawn planks stayed with oak beams, upon the top of which they have six cannons, which shoot iron balls of four and five pounds, and command the surrounding country. The lower part they use for their church, where they preach on Sundays and the usual holidays…” Logic suggests that the meeting house may have played a role in the first Thanksgiving, too, if not to serve up the venison and cranberry sauce, at least to bless the gathered grateful.
Though the modern community of Plymouth has grown up over the foundations the Pilgrims laid in that fallow field, the re-creation of New England’s original community continues to draw nearly a million visitors every year. About 11 miles south of the Plimoth Plantation historical park, just on the edge of Myles Standish State Forest, a new, planned community named Redbrook has taken root in cranberry country, offering “the New England Village reimagined.” In 2015, its first residents moved in; today over 100 homes have been built, and a budding community has begun to thrive. As was the case in Plymouth’s original settlement, The Meeting House occupies the village’s heart. While it shares its predecessor’s quality of providing a variety of services, this modern structure houses neither an altar nor cannons.
Developed by the A.D. Makepeace Company, the Redbrook community began with a village green and the notion that “the best New England villages balance natural beauty and planned function.” The Meeting House would be its first structure, designed by Saltonstall Architects of Marion and constructed by the Valle Group of East Falmouth. “This building was meant to set the architectural tone of the village,” says Will Saltonstall, CEO and chief architect. It would also help establish a theme important to the developer and to this particular project—one of a committed, caring community. Appropriately, the first public event in The Meeting House was the A.D. Makepeace Company’s festive reception for some 80 representatives of nonprofit organizations selected to receive grants from the company’s charitable foundation.
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