BELLOWS FALLS, Vermont – The Rockingham Selectboard gave the go-ahead this week for local curators to save key parts of the city’s former Methodist church before the building’s upcoming demolition.
Rockingham officials voted unanimously on Tuesday through two separate motions to appropriate up to $ 21,000 in total for the removal of the church spire and iconic stained glass windows from the old church building and the YMCA building located at 66 Atkinson Street prior to the building’s demolition, now scheduled to occur in December.
A motion earmarked up to $ 6,000 to cover the costs of removing the stained glass windows, which Walter Wallace, director of the preservation project, said could be resold for a considerable profit.
A second motion provided for up to $ 15,000 for the costs of removing the steeple and moving it to another site in town, where the steeple can be restored and converted into a storage shed for holiday exhibits and items. seasonal workers in the city.
Built in 1837, the doomed building on Atkinson Street is considered “structurally unsafe,” with reports from city officials of failing interior trusses and heavy slate roof shingles coming loose and falling to the ground. The town of Rockingham has contracted with Hodgkins & Sons, a Bellows Falls company, with an offer of $ 58,683 to demolish the 186-year-old building.
The city is seeking to have the building demolished before the onset of winter precipitation, which could cause the roof to collapse if heavy snow and ice accumulate on it.
Selectman Elijah Zimmer, who is also a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, last month expressed interest in attempting to salvage the church steeple as a historical keepsake and salvage the building’s stained glass and reused wood.
“[The steeple] is in perfect condition, ”Zimmer said Wednesday. “The slate roof is totally immaculate and it would cost nothing to restore, so it could be a really nice storage facility.
The steeple is 144 square feet in size and would meet the city’s storage needs, according to Zimmer, who noted that the city hasn’t had a convenient place to hold its seasonal items for several years.
Zimmer said he spoke to a steeple restoration company who estimated that removing and reinstalling the steeple would cost around $ 12,000. City Manager Scott Pickup estimated an additional cost of $ 2,000 to $ 3,000 to lay the groundwork under the room.
The steeple would also have to be removed first so that local curators could access and remove the wooden beams from the ceiling, which Wallace would like to salvage for future use, such as potential renovations to the Rockingham Meeting House.
The biggest remaining question regarding the steeple is where to move it. Zimmer originally offered the Waypoint Visitor Center at 17 Depot St., which Zimmer said provided a convenient location for the collection and storage of seasonal items. But Selectboard chairman Peter Golec dismissed the location, saying the piece would not aesthetically match the area.
Other board members suggested a placement in Riverfront Park along the Historic Trail, which is maintained by the Rockingham Historical Society. City Development Director Gary Fox said this particular area focuses on the industrial history of the city as opposed to general historical objects.
“The Connecticut River Heritage Plan, which is in place for destination tourism in this region, is based entirely on the paper industry, the rail industry, canals and hydroelectricity,” Fox said. “I think the churches and the residential part would have no place there.”
The Selectboard said it would review comments and suggestions for a great location. The council will have to determine a site by the end of November, before the work of a specialist under contract. Pickup said Hodgkins & Sons could delay its demolition until December, but Pickup recommended a December 1 deadline to complete any preservation work outsourced due to the approach of winter.
Speaking of removing the windows, Wallace said he is still researching the source of manufacture, but estimates the market value of the stained glass to be between $ 10,000 and $ 50,000. The parts would be packaged for later shipment, which would ensure a net benefit to the city.
Selectman Bonnie North suggested that many residents may have hoped the windows will be kept as city artifacts rather than salvaged. The selection committee noted that the appropriation vote does not preclude a potential fundraising effort to restore and preserve the windows, as the motion was only for the removal of the windows.
The Historic Preservation Commission is also looking to salvage additional reusable lumber, such as 2-by-4-foot pieces, from the site. These, however, could be salvaged during the demolition and cleanup process. Wallace did not have an estimated cost to salvage and move this lumber, but indicated that this work could be done by city employees or volunteers rather than outsourced.