Historic Meredith steeple being restored
July 14, 2010
MEREDITH — A familiar-sounding clock has been silent as of late, though only until its steeple can be repaired.
The steeple of the First Congregational Church of Meredith is currently being restored after a fundraising campaign for repairs to numerous areas of wear and damage over the years.
The church building on Highland Avenue is the tallest structure in town, measuring 96 feet from the street to the top of the steeple. The steeple can be seen from a few miles away approaching the village area, and its clock tells the hour for those in town.
The Congregational Church was first moved to its current site in 1842. The bell was installed in 1871 and the clock was installed in 1903.
"It has a long history, the community church," said Wayne Bredvik, chair of the church's Board of Trustees and the chair of the steeple fundraising campaign. "Many families were once members or had family members who were once members."
Bredvik said he had noticed black-colored sections on the steeple that he originally thought were dirt and mildew. Over time, he said he noticed they were getting darker.
In January, the Fire Department used the steeple for truck training. The church asked fire personnel to take photos of the steeple while they were up that high.
"That's when I became aware that it was more than dirt and mildew," Bredvik said.
The photos showed the steeple was in poor condition.
Pigeonholes were seen in the side and pigeons were getting inside the steeple.
"We knew we were getting water behind there," Bredvik said. "We had to have that dealt with."
On the spire, the tin roof had been leaking and holes were found in the edge. The worst section was in the right corner.
"The structural parts were in the worst condition," Bredvik said.
If the damage wasn't addressed, Bredvik said it could lead to further structural problems.
On May 1, the church kicked off a fundraiser to raise money for the steeple's repair with a goal of $30,000. Nearly two months later, about two-thirds of the money had been raised with donations from as far as Texas and Minnesota. Many donations came from former parishioners or family and friends of parishioners. They have also received donations from local people who appreciate having the clock in town.
"A lot of people in this community love that clock," Bredvik said. "Some people consider it the town clock."
The church contracted with Limerick Steeplejacks of Limerick, Maine. Owner George Sanborn is a third-generation steeplejack who last worked in the church's steeple in 1987. Bredvik said Sanborn left his initials in the clock section of the steeple the last time he worked there. Sanborn's grandfather also worked on the steeple.
Sections are being redone with Spanish cedar, which is rot resistant. The metal work has also been rebuilt. The metal roof will be replaced with a one-piece rubber roof. The louvers will be scraped and painted with primer and two coats of black semi gloss paint. The lights will also be taken off the top of the steeple. The New Hampshire Electric Co-op installed a high-pressure sodium light fixture what produces intense light in front of the louvers following a conversation with the Co-op on what the church wanted.
"It lights up the whole thing to the spire," Bredvick said.
The light is being paid for by the church with $28 a month added onto their electric bill.
A crane had to come in at one point to help fix sections of the steeple.
The clock bell will be silent through the renovation process, though will ring again when work is done. Work is expected to last for at least a few more weeks, and fundraising efforts are continuing.
"We still need help from people who love that steeple," Bredvik said.
To donate to the steeple fund, make checks out to the First Congregational Church and write "Steeple Repair" in the memo line. Send donations to First Congregational Church, PO Box 533, Meredith, NH 03253.