The 1924 Fire and Capital Campaign

Reposted from Once Upon a Time in Needham.
On Saturday, January 5, 1924, a fire almost completely destroyed the original church building. The Kingsbury, Greene, and Crossman memorial windows, along with the Communion silver, the old bell, some flags, the pulpit, and a few other furnishings were the only items to survive. The cause of the fire is unknown.

The Kingbury Memorial Window, which commemorates the long service of Dr. A. Dexter Kingsbury as a deacon in the church, was one of the few items to survive the 1924 fire. Dr. Kingsbury’s wife and daughter donated the window in July 1918. (Photo: Shala Howell)

Although the fire was devastating for the congregation, the pastor of the time, Rev. Harry W. Kimball quickly turned the event into an opportunity, drawing up plans for a facility that more closely met his growing congregation’s needs. The planned building would provide a larger sanctuary with room for the much larger congregation, new classrooms downstairs for the expanded Sunday School program, and an assembly hall capable of seating 200.

The Second Church Building, built 1924

Funds for the new church, which cost $60,000 to build, came from:

Insurance collected on old building


Cash subscriptions


Three-year pledges


Mortgage loan




The new organ was not included in this capital campaign. The $5,600 needed to procure it were raised separately by the choir, under the leadership of the choir directors, Dr. Wilde and Miss Mabel P. Friswell.

Brochure from the 1924 Capital Campaign. The Rev. Harry Kimball is the gentleman in the top oval. Herbert Stevenson, who was instrumental in revamping the Church School, is shown in the oval below.

Source: The History of the Evangelical Congregational Church of Needham, Massachusetts as compiled by Edmund W. Trowbridge, Church Historian, 1957.

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About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at, chatting about books and the writing life at, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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