Built - 1908
The town of Hamilton is located north of Boston. It is a town with a very rich history and a wealth of historic buildings with 34 of them listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Tucked back from the main street sits one of the town's most significant historical and architectural treasures although it is not listed on the National Register or by any official historical listing. The site is known as Asbury Grove, a collection of very modest summer cottages with a turn-of-the-century flavor which remains the oldest operating Methodist camp meeting ground in New England.
Prior to 1859, when Asbury Grove first opened, people in the Boston area and northern New England had to travel to Eastham on Cape Cod to attend camp meetings. To accomodate these congregations, the Asbury Camp Meeting Corporation was formed and the old Dodge farm in Hamilton was acquired for this purpose. At first, platforms were constructed on which members of the congregation erected tents for meetings and living in and eventually more substantial cottages were built. But over the years, these cottages and meeting houses needed extensive renovation which was always done by the congregation through fund raisings.
Originally, services were held in a large tent, but an open air auditorium was soon arranged under the beautiful pine trees with benches built in a semicircle facing a pulpit stand. The original seating capacity was for 15,000 or more but on several Camp Meeting Sundays, even that was not adequate. Thirty-six large frame society tents, with board sides about 6 feet high and canvas for roofs, were built by the churches in the two districts and they surrounded the auditorium giving it the name 'The Circle." These tents were for the accommodation of the church people and where prayer and praise services went on.
Stores, cottages and other structures have been lost over the years due to fire and storms with few structures remaining, however, the congregation has also dwindled over the years. The bandstand in 'The Circle," being built around 1908, is still in good shape and has always served a very important function during the summer months for prayer meetings under the pines or other forms of entertainment. Little information is available on the structure itself but it remains as a symbol of the camp's unity and endurance over the years.