The Stone Church is, at present, a music club, restaurant, bar, and function space in downtown Newmarket, NH. Its history is as colorful as the vibrant murals of Bob Marley, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia, and Jim Morrison that decorate its exterior walls! (We have had requests to add murals of David Bowie, Prince, and Lemmy- stay tuned!)
Erected in 1832, the building first served as a Universalist Meeting House, setting into motion a dynamic lifetime of providing a hub in which people from all thoughts and walks of life could congregate and share ideas and culture. The building became a Unitarian Meeting House twenty years later. In 1865, it was sold to the Roman Catholic Church, thus establishing the first Catholic Church in Newmarket, NH. In 1890, this church was moved down to Main St, into a building next to Town Hall, and the Catholics then used The Stone Church as a school for teaching French to children.
The building then shuffled through various secular personalities, including a roller-skating rink, playhouse, and VFW hall. In the 1950s, The Newmarket Heel Factory inhabited the building, helping to secure Newmarket as a bustling mill town centered on the manufacture of shoes. At one point during this incarnation, the building was ravaged by a fire. Visitors can still see evidence of this event in the charred beams of the main room. As legend has it, a worker took a hammer to the stained-glass windows of the building to vent the fire, which is why the stained glass does not remain today. The story goes that the firefighters sent a torrent of heels out the front door, down the hill, and into the Lamprey River with the forceful flow of water from their hoses!
In 1969, the building was sold to three UNH students. Inspired by a “Forever Woodstock” mentality, these students set about creating a rock club that would keep music alive in the community. Quickly, the club established itself as a musical mecca, and hosted the likes of Phish, Aerosmith, Bonnie Raitt, Parliament, Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, Patty Larkin, Bela Fleck, David Grisman Quintet, Joan Osbourne, The Butthole Surfers, The Wood Brothers, Soulive, moe, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Radiators, John Butler Trio, Ralph Stanley, John Scofield, David Francey, John Fullbright, The Stray Birds, Dom Flemons, Anais Mitchell, and Session Americana, Percy Hill, Say Zuzu, Scissorfight, Thanks to Gravity, Bill Morrissey, Truffle, Dub Apocalypse, Ghosts of Jupiter, Dan Blakeslee, Adam Ezra Group, The David Wax Museum, Lula Wiles, and more.
Visitors to The Stone Church come to relive their memories of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Many speak fondly of when the room was heated by a wood stove, and customers were allowed to bring their dogs inside to see the music. For some, these memories are but a vague, happy haze, an indication of the time that they grew up in. And for those current students at UNH and others, they come to create new memories, to put their mark on this historical landmark.
That history can be read from the artifacts still strewn about the interior of The Stone Church. We’ve come across handpainted signs from farmers’ markets, leftover propaganda from the unions in the mills, anti-Vietnam sentiments that were scrawled on the walls, condom and earplug machines containing long-expired products, decades-old discarded liquor bottles, roller-skate scuff marks, a piano and other instruments in various states of disrepair, numerous ancient fliers, and related flotsam and jetsam that tells the tale of a spirited, 180-year old community meeting house.