Hemlock, photos and dollars needed for steeple restoration in Troy

Posted July 17, 2011, at 6:01 p.m.

TROY — The search is on in woodlots, attics and checkbooks to make possible the next steps in restoring the leaning steeple on the Troy Union Church. Help is needed from near and far, people who use the church now and those who remember getting a potted pansy on Children’s Sunday when they were 4 or 5, or whose parents were married in the church back in 1942, just before Dad went overseas, as well as from those who value historic local architecture and structures that represent the spirit of community.

Needed are at least two large, sound hemlock trees, 20-inch dbh (diameter at breast height) or larger and straight, with no twists, to permit the 12-inch-by-12-inch by-40-foot timbers to be hewn from them. These timbers will replace the original timbers which have rotted enough to cause the steeple to tilt dangerously. Earlier this year, timber frame restoration expert Arron Sturgis assessed the damage and built a temporary interior truss to stabilize the steeple on the 171-year-old building.

Plans are being made to restore the steeple using the same materials and methods as were used in the original, although the ties will have to be up to modern code for public buildings, Sturgis said. Sturgis and church members are hoping Troy residents will volunteer to have appropriate trees cut on their property for the project. Sturgis will inspect the trees on-site and oversee their felling and shaping, as well as the final installation. The original work was done with local, green, hand-hewn hemlock and that’s what he plans to use again. Woodlot owners in the area with good hemlock available are encouraged to contact Norma Rossel in Troy at: nrossel@uninets.net or 948-2841.

Rossel has applied for National Register status for the church to enable it to apply for a matching grant from the Maine Steeple Project, sponsored by the Maine Community Foundation and Maine Preservation. If the small congregation is successful in raising the local funds (some of which can be in kind, such as the hemlock trees) and receiving the grant, they hope to restore both the steeple and the original ceiling so the fine balcony at the rear of the church once again can be seen and used.

In her research for the National Register application, Rossel has found that the church’s records include no photographs of the interior of the church before the old ceiling was hidden by the 1954 installation of a dropped ceiling. Photos are greatly needed so the restoration can be accurate.

A wood ceiling was installed sometime in the church’s history, but the original was plaster and lath, according to those who have investigated the old structure. Rossel plans to interview some of the older residents of the town to collect their memories of the church. She hopes some of them still might have old photos of the inside of the church.

The photos and memories will help in the major fundraising campaign now being planned, said Rossel. Just repairing the truss that supports the belfry is estimated to cost $60,700, (about 240 bake sales!). The maximum grant allowed under the Steeple Project is $40,000. So more grants and lots of other fundraising are in store for this rural church in Troy, population 997.

Contributions for Troy Union Church Restoration may be mailed to the Treasurer, Troy Union church, 230 Bangor Road, Troy 04987.

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