233-year-old church steeple restored
By Janee Law
After spending months restoring the steeple of the Old First Presbyterian Church, the scaffolding that surrounded the tower has been taken down to reveal the historic, now refurbished, steeple.
Restoration of the 233-year-old, 100-foot-tall steeple included installing new copper flashing, replacing deteriorated wood shingles, and restoring original louvers, siding, urns, and molding at the belfry.
John Collins, chair of the church’s building committee said other work is still being completed, including connecting the cable that rings the bell, fixing the hinges of a door and rebuilding the sash on three windows in the lower part of the tower.
He added that the remainder of the work will be complete in two to three weeks.
“It’s a very complete, thorough job. The paint job was a six coat process,” he said, adding that restoration of the steeple was significant because it’s a symbol of the church. We’re “hopeful that it’s going to last for a better part of 20 years.”
The project began in October 2016. The scaffolding officially came down at the end of February. The estimated cost came in at a little over $300,000.
The steeple restoration is part of the church’s planned three-year, $1 million capital campaign. The church received grants totaling $120,000 — including $35,000 from the New York Landmarks Conservancy; $50,000 from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation; and a $35,000 anonymous grant.
The campaign also includes interior renovations to the 1950s kitchen, parish hall, floors of the classrooms and installation of LED lighting.
Collins said the church has raised a little over $600,000 and is hoping to get additional funding from groups that support historic preservation, so the church can move forward in reconstructing the steps and parking lot.
During the restoration process, Collins said there were a few exciting surprises, including the discovery of three clock faces and a date panel carved into the flush vertical boards of the solid octagonal stage of the steeple. The clock faces were covered over with singles that were dated 1896. He added that the clock faces were never installed at the time, due to unavailable funds for the project.