September 2018

Old Church Saved

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Photo by Ted Flanders

Carpenter Brian Doyon is pictured in the attic of the First Baptist Church near the completion of his recent repairs. He is standing next to a reinforcing tie plate and a cross rod installed at one of the roof trusses.

The cherished old building really was in danger of collapse. Glenn Neilson, an experienced construction manager and the member responsible for the care of the First Baptist Church up on Hasting’s Hill at the end of Russell Avenue, had seen some pieces of the ceiling on the floor of the sanctuary and realized there was a problem. And when he climbed into the attic, he found that several key connections in the old post-and-beam framework, built in 1846, were rotted away and the structure was coming apart.

So, with the help of Building Inspector Ted Flanders and Tom DiBlasi, a professional structural engineer, he planned the repairs. Brian Doyon, a much-respected local carpenter, agreed to tackle the job. The outer corners of several of the main roof trusses, where the rafters connect to the cross beams and the vertical posts, had to be reinforced. Long cross rods with turnbuckles were installed in four places to pull the outer walls back together and secure them. And in several spots, the center of the cross beams had to be secured to the vertical king posts of the trusses. Reinforcement was needed in the cellar to support the main floor where temporary posts had to be installed to hold up the sanctuary ceiling. There was more, too complicated for this writer to comprehend.

Brian is known as a fast, hard worker, and he got the job done in time for the August 5 service, the second of the five summer Sunday services traditionally scheduled during the vacations of First Congregational and Second Baptist. The first had been quickly rescheduled back to Second Baptist. Church President Ed Chase advises that some of the repair cost will be covered by insurance.

The traditional August services are the main activities of the church, which also hosts occasional weddings and funerals, as well as one chilly carol sing at Christmas. Hot cocoa in the parlor helps compensate for the lack of heat in the sanctuary. 

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