Guilford church repairs to begin

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
July 10, 2008

GUILFORD — The First Congregational Church is slated for a facelift this summer.

The church, one of the town’s most visible with its perch at the top of the Guilford Green, has been surrounded by scaffolding for the past couple of weeks. Senior Minister Kendrick Norris said he expects construction to begin soon, although some town permits are still pending.

The work will consist of two phases, Norris said. In the first, the steeple will be repaired and repainted, workers will put on a new roof and the chimney will be fixed. In the second, workers will replace some of the columns in the front of the church and the whole building will be repainted.

“The steeple, it just gets beat up and it gets a lot of damage done to it,” he said. “That gets (repaired) on a regular basis.”

The Broad Street church, which was built in 1830, repairs the steeple about every six years and periodically repaints it, Norris said. He added that he cannot remember work on the chimney in his 30 years with the group, and he has been told that the chimney is in “desperate” need of restoration.

The congregation is one of the country’s oldest, first meeting in 1643.

“It’s a really old building,” Norris said. “We usually spend about $50,000 a year on repairs just all the time every year, but this is kind of a big chunk.”

He noted that this repair work is estimated to cost about $200,000.

The white clapboard church stands in Guilford’s historic district. Norris said that one of the most important factors in repairing such an old building is to be aware of the risk of fire.

A decade ago, nearby St. George Catholic Church caught fire while the roof was under construction. The roof and parts of the building interior were damaged, but ultimately repaired.

Norris said that First Congregational Church will be fully functional during the repairs. He expects the first phase of work — the steeple, chimney and roof — to be completed by September.

“We had a civil union ceremony last Saturday,” he said. “It’s not quite as beautiful as it usually is, but it’s totally functional.”

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