Early settlers to Westport first organized a religious congregation in 1807, over two hundred years ago. Meetings were held in private homes and later in the schoolhouse. This church group was called the Northwest Bay Church. In 1816, the church changed its affiliation to the First Baptist Church of Westport.
In 1828, the first church building for this faith community was constructed at the top of the Washington Street hill (now Stevenson Road). From this vantage point, a lantern was used to signal to the townspeople that a meeting would be taking place. In 1839, the structure was moved to the present site on Main Street.
Although a huge undertaking, the moving of a church from one location to another was not uncommon two hundred years ago. Church members came together with horsed and oxen and chains an screws and all the things needful to accomplish this feat.
When the Great Fire of 1876 swept through Westport taking all the structures on the west side of Main Street, the church burned to the ground. The church, a Gothic Revival architecture, was rebuilt in 1877. Later an addition, named Beebe Hall, was built as a social hall and housed Sunday School.
In 1939, due to lack of worshippers at both the Baptist and Methodist churches, the congregations merged forming the Westport Federated Church and meeting for worship in the current Westport Federated Church.
In recent years, Westport – like other towns along Lake Champlain – wanted to establish a visitor center to showcase the history of our town and tell visitors what there is to see and do in the region. The 1877 building that formerly housed the Baptist Church was leased by the Federated Church to the Town and Chamber of Commerce for the purpose of creating the Westport Heritage House.
Many talented and committed citizens have given much time, talent and treasure to make the vision a reality. As a Committee of the Chamber of Commerce and collaborating with the Town of Westport, the Lakes-to-Locks Passage, the Champlain Valley Heritage Network, the Essex County Arts Council and more, the Westport Heritage House Visitor & Community Center is the focal point of our community by bringing together long-time residents and visitors to the region to celebrate our history, our stories, our present and our future. Enjoy our town!