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Restored spire lifted back into place

In less than two hours on Sunday morning, local volunteers and those from Kingdom Crane of St. Johnsbury, Vt., lifted the restored spire back onto the former Congregational Church building at the top of the Lunenburg Common. The then-badly-deteriorated steeple was removed on July 7, 2007,and volunteers have donated hundreds of hours of work to ready the steeple for its return “flight.” (Photo courtesy of Christine Lingley) (click for larger version)
October 07, 2009
LUNENBURG — "It's a really exciting day here!" explained Top of the Common Committee (TOCC) treasurer Christine "Chris" Lingley in her living room early on Sunday afternoon. "It's up," she trilled into the telephone in response to one of the many inquiries from other volunteers committed to restoring both the 1850 church and the 1849 Old Town Hall. "Everything lined up and went smoothly."

Kingdom Crane of St. Johnsbury donated its services to lift the Congregational Church building spire into place, starting shortly before 9 a.m., on Oct. 4, and its workers' took under two hours to complete their work, Ms. Lingley said.

The spire was removed on July 7, 2007, and placed on the ground nearby where volunteers — mainstay carpenters Larry Amadon, Henry Lingley, and Tim Betts (who was celebrating his 48th birthday on Sunday) — and more occasional workers Gary Fournier, Larry Weidemier, Tom and Theresa Lewis, Carroll Macie, and Trevor and Mary Jane Colby — restored the steeple. "To date our volunteers have logged over 450 hours!" Ms. Lingley said. 

Some new wood was integrated into the spire, and some aluminum sheathing and flashing also was installed. Some compromised sections of wood were treated with an epoxy-based wood-cell strengthener. Each of the eight shutters were stripped, repaired, and painted. 

The Congregational Church Restoration and Preservation Society, the legal caretakers of the building, replaced the existing weathervane with a specially fabricated replica, the treasurer reported.

Using new wood, Mr. Lingley turned a new ball to top the weathervane. Copper was used to reconstruct the multi-pieced tip of the spire to reduce the chances of future weather infiltration, Ms. Lingley explained.

Armor Lightning Protection of Manchester Center, Vt., is updating the system in place, installed in 1955, to bring it up to current codes.

A celebratory event is being planned in the near future to mark the end of Phase I. Phase II, which includes placing pine boards around the spire's main supports in the spring and installing the repaired balustrade, will begin as soon as weather permits in the spring.

Bernard LaBounty donated and installed a new electric service, but rewiring the interior and fixtures still remains to be done.

No congregation has been associated with the church building for about a half-century, Ms. Lingley explained. Nonetheless, the two buildings at the top of the common lend themselves to weddings and receptions and public events — concerts, slide-talks, and other educational or entertaining programs.

"Our hope is that once both buildings are restored, community events will regularly be held here," Ms. Lingley said. The church building can be used with only minor changes, the fire marshal has told TOCC, including such items as fire retardant paint and push-open mechanisms on the exterior doors.

"The inside of the church is gorgeous," Ms. Lingley said.

Fund-raising efforts have raised cash for materials, and in 2006 a $5,450 matching grant was received from the state Division of Historic Preservation. The town appropriated $7,000 that March.

Preservation experts estimated that completing all phases of the restoration project would cost $100,000.

Using the funds on hand, N.E. Pelletier Builders, Inc. of Bethlehem stabilized the floor and also installed a ridge cap gasket in Sept. 2006 to create a tight seal on the new roof that Stephen Streeter had installed.

This year TOCC received a $1,765 mini-grant from the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) of Vermont to start a farmers' market every summer Wednesday. Between 11 and 14 vendors came every week, and it looks like the market is a "go" for next summer.

A fund-raising Gingerbread Bazaar is planned for a second year in a row on Saturday, Dec. 5, at the Lunenburg School. Three additional sugarhouses will be on the annual Maple Festival weekend in March 2010.

"We're looking for more volunteers to help with these kinds of events," Ms. Lingley said. "Painting and carpentry work are not the only needs; we need people to help with setting up displays and making 3-D stars to sell at the December Bazaar. We're looking to get a list of townspeople who can step up to the plate to work for an hour or two on special projects," she said. "We don't want our hardcore volunteers to get burned out."

TOCC maintains a website at www.topofthecommon.org; donations can be mailed to TOCC, P. O. Box 195, Lunenburg, VT 05906 or electronically. TOCC is now a registered member of eBay Giving Works, which is set up to help nonprofit organizations conveniently receive donations.

The Top of the Common Committee is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.

Matin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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