Chapel of Rock

Meet Jamie Preston, the latest steward/owner, who reveres the Stone Church's rich tradition while writing her own chapter in its history

Newmarket’s Stone Church is steeped and steepled in local history. It was born again as a music venue during the ecstatic hippie era, and has faithfully provided a hallelujah chorus to the Seacoast music scene ever since. Like true apostles, a string of dedicated owners preserved the venue through many dangers, toils and snares (and a fire), offering bands (often legendary) a well-versed congregation. Meet Jamie Preston, the latest steward/owner, who reveres this rich tradition while writing her own chapter in Stone Church history. Some say rock ‘n’ roll will never die. The Stone Church bears testament — and evangelical witness — to the immortal kinship and joy that heartfelt hospitality and good music can provide.

In Jamie Preston’s own words:

Sharp Done Curves Stone Church 4424The Church is a crazy and wild place, and not for the faint of heart. It keeps you constantly on your toes, and it’s always changing. I like to say, “If you ain’t growing, you’re dying.” 

The Stone Church was erected in 1832 as a Universalist Meeting House, putting into motion a dynamic community hub for all people where they could congregate and share ideas. 

The building became a music club in 1970 after being a roller skating rink, a playhouse and a VFW Hall in the 1950s. The Newmarket Mill factory took over the building, as Newmarket was a mill town focusing on shoe manufacturing.

In 1968, the building was engulfed in flames. You can still see the remnants of the charred beams in the main room and up in the ballroom. Story has it that the firefighters were hesitant to break the beautiful stained-glass windows, but they were forced to anyway by the fire chief.

I started a “street team” at the Stone Church in 2004, a term for a group of people who hang posters around local cities for publicity.

I would pick up posters every week and tack them up in Portsmouth and Dover until 2009. I did that for a free entrance to the shows. I got to see acts like David Grisman and Ralph Stanley.

Over the course of years, I’ve met and hung with every single owner of the Stone Church except for two — one who had passed away and one that we couldn’t track down. The one owner that stands out is Eli O’Connell, who had the Stone Church from 1980 to 1993. She was the only solo female owner, and she booked legendary acts like Phish, The Pencils and The Band That Time Forgot. 

She (Eli) sold the Stone Church to Paul Lebrun, who is one of my dear friends and a mentor to this day. He had some of the greats play there like Derek Trucks, Moe and Truffle.

We have people travel from all over to come to the Stone Church. It’s a legendary venue. Jam bands always bring big crowds. 

We have a great kitchen and serve pub fair. I also live on an actual farm in Lee call Dog Rose, so we tend to use a lot of our fresh produce for the menu.  

There is all forms of dancing at the Stone Church. Rhythmic to thrashing. Jam bands, metal bands, emo bands — all get people off their seats. It’s all part of the groove.

We do last call at 12:45 a.m., and we close at 1:30 depending on the show. If it’s an earlier show or when it’s quiet, we don’t always stick to a hard time for our staff. Sometimes we let them go early.

Trust us. If you see something you’re interested in attending, show up. You’ll have a good time among lots of love and the live music. 

I want to add how honored I am to have been chosen to carry this torch. It’s a heavy weight, but I feel like I’m not alone. I will do my best to keep it growing, continue this long tradition, and keep spreading positive vibes all along the way.

Stone Church OldThe Stone Church: Genesis to Revelation

The musical foundations for the Stone Church were laid back in 1970. At right is a shot taken that year against the north wall. That’s Bill Madison (one of the first to play there) on guitar with Jeff Lind on upright bass and Bob Frost on banjo. Madison is still writing, performing and recording — now in Lakeland, Fla.

Bill Madison Enhanced SrThe recent pandemic years led to even closer bonds between The Stone Church and Newmarket, which sparked a vision for a new kind of expansion. Partnering with the Historical Society, they were able to use nearby outdoor space to feature music back when social distancing was required — a privilege that has been allowed to continue post-COVID in modified form. 

Visit to check out shows and learn more.

Categories: People, Q&A