TROY — Restoration carpenter Arron Sturgis and his crew finished constructing the massive brace in the back of the Troy Union Church sanctuary April 13, after two days of building the structural posts that now carry the weight of the back of the steeple, preventing further tipping.
The structure begins from the ground under the church, where cribbing was placed. Substantial wooden supports extend through the floor, up through holes cut in the ceiling and then up to the edge of the leaning belfry. The brace will hold the steeple and any snow and ice load until a full restoration can be done.
Sturgis switched from building houses to restoration work after attending a workshop led by Jan Lewandoski, a timber frame restorer in Windsor, Vt., who specializes in covered bridges. Now living in Berwick, Sturgis restores barns in the winter and steeples in the summer and clearly admires the work done by local people using ordinary tools and methods to create beautiful buildings such as the 1840 Troy Union Church.
In addition to the solid joinery evidenced in the frame of the church, he pointed out the wide board mortised and tenoned pews with mortised paneled ends and hand-planed curved moldings. He plans to use local wood, as the original builders did, when he restores the steeple’s underpinnings, though he said modern public building safety codes will require that he use a steel yoke.
Church member and steeple project organizer Norma Rossel has applied for National Register status for the historic church building in preparation for applying for a grant from the Maine Steeples Project to help fund the restoration. The matching amount needed from the church and community may amount to more than $40,000, she said.
Labor from local trained carpenters and timber from local forests may be used to help complete some phases of the restoration. Sturgis said he is eager to work with local craftspeople and will inspect potential timber trees and supervise their felling and shaping. Troy area residents interested in the project should call Rossel at 948-2841 or email email@example.com.
Contributions to support the project may be mailed to: Treasurer, Troy Union Church, 230 Bangor Road, Troy 04987.