Restoration Efforts Move Forward at Chester Church

Tom Wilhelm of Preservation Timber Framing Inc. constructs some staging on Monday in the Chester Congregational Baptist Church steeple as reconstruction efforts are underway at the historic site.
Photo by Chris Paul

The restoration of the Chester Congregational Baptist Church is currently underway with work being done to the historic steeple by Preservation Timber Framing Inc.
The construction group recently managed the restoration of the First Parish Church in East Derry, which took a number of years and a full frame restoration, but nothing that extensive is planned in Chester.
The hope is that the steeple will be restored within two or three months, provided nothing is uncovered as they begin work.
Scaffolding was set up around the steeple last week, and workers have been busy setting up staging within the steeple for restoration work to begin.
This is just Phase I of the project, it involves anything structural that needs to be done to the steeple and reconditioning of the front façade of the church.
Phase II involves the interior of the building. Years of water damage from gaps in the steeple has done significant damage to the sanctuary ceiling, thus the ceiling will need to be scraped, prepped and re-painted.
Phase II involved the remaining exterior three sides of the building. Repairs will include Painting, fixing shutters, window glazing and foundation repair.
In total, the cost for all this work adds up to about $475,000. About 85 percent of this funding has already been raised, but additional funding will be required to finish this extensive project.
Recently, the Meetinghouse Preservation Project committee sent out a mailer asking for donations.
Most of the funds already raised for the project was done through congregation members of the church and from private donations. About $65,000 of the money raised was from Warrant Articles raised by taxpayers in Chester at Town Meeting. Interestingly, the clock and bell in the steeple is owned by the town of Chester.
The committee hopes that most of the reconstruction can be done before the Chester 300th Anniversary celebration, as a lot of the events will be held on the church grounds.
The events for the anniversary are scheduled to begin on May 7, 2022.
Stevens Hall was also going to be used during the 300th celebration, but recently it was discovered that structural issues in the hall have made it off limits to residents.
The congregation has just recently started to hold services in the historic building again after the COVID-19 state of emergency ended and Rev. Linda Rackliffe can once again welcome members each Sunday at 10 a.m.
Anyone interested in donating to this preservation project can do so by visiting chesternhchurch.org and clicking the donate button on the Meetinghouse Preservation Project page.

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