Friends of the Stone Church

Preserving The Building

FOSC’s Mission in Action

FOSC is devoting its resources to make sure that the Stone Church can become and remain a center of community and cultural life for years to come. Our current focus remains stabilization, the steps needed to preserve the building to the point where it is no longer in imminent danger. Therefore, a significant portion of our financial resources are directed to construction repairs and building maintenance.

We have been very fortunate to have received significant support from the Massachusetts Historical Commission, a state agency under the direction of the Secretary of State William Galvin, in the form of four grants between 2015 and 2022. In 2019, FOSC also received a grant from the Johanna Favrot Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately-funded non-profit organization that works to save America’s historic places to enrich our future. These matching grants inspired and made possible individual support which went beyond the matching levels required, allowing FOSC to continue to invest in the future of the Stone Church.

The Plan

Project Architect Philip Warbasse, with support from structural engineer John Wathne and architectural historian Susan Ceccacci, has developed a prioritized master plan for stabilizing the Stone Church. The plan calls for repairs to the steeple, removal of certain trees and other site work to reduce groundwater infiltration. Once the building is stabilized, FOSC directors will pursue steps to support increased public uses of the Stone Church.

Preserving the steeple

The survey team: John Wathne, PE, Structures North; Steve Quinn, Skyline Engineers; Phillip Warbasse, AIA, Warbasse Associates LLC

The Steeple

After sealing out infiltrating water, FOSC’s highest priority in preserving the Stone Church has been the steeple. The towering spire that creates the Stone Church’s signature profile is the only one of three such Elbridge Boyden towers still standing. Erosion of mortar over the years has led to stone cracking and displacement of important structural elements. Two very similar Boyden towers, one in Brattleboro, VT and one in Newport, RI have been rebuilt.

Starting with an assessment in 2017, FOSC proceeded to address masonry and woodwork repairs from the ground floor of the tower to the base of the belfry. We are fortunate that 21st century stone masonry uses advanced technology to clean and seal not only the surfaces where mortar has eroded, but also deep into the stone structure.

Above the areas that have now been repaired, the steeple still displays serious cracking, stone displacement, and eroded mortar joints. The weight of tower and spire is precariously balanced above the repaired areas. Modern stone masonry technology is being applied incrementally up the structure to give the Stone Church life for its present and future service to the community.

Phase 3 Steeple Repairs

Successful bidder Joseph Gnazzo Company, Inc. of Union, CT will begin phase 3 in spring of 2022, to repair masonry to stabilize three pillars of the belfry which have not yet been addressed, and to repair open joints and masonry cracks to the transition shingle stones below the lantern level. Additional funding is needed to continue work at the lantern level, where four ‘dormlets’ are located, up to the base of the spire. Some of the worst water infiltration and damage has occurred at the lantern level. The contracted work with any possible extension of Phase 3 will bring us closer to preventing the ultimate loss that a tower collapse would represent.

Phase 2 Steeple Repairs Completed in 2020

The outpouring of community support in Phase 2 (2019-20) included support for FOSC’s “Got Scaffolding?” campaign, a summer fundraising effort during the COVID lockdowns which allowed us to exceed the original scope of work. Preservation contractor Joseph Gnazzo Company, Inc., the winning bidder for this contract, completed masonry repairs to the balcony level reaching 55 feet above the tower’s base. Additionally, they repaired the nine balcony windows, cleaning, repairing, sealing and painting them; they replaced and painted the structural sills of the belfry louvers; and they were able to begin masonry repairs to the belfry, completing one of the four pillars. Considering the need for a hiatus between phases, caused in part by New England winters, the contractor installed a steel restraining cable around the top of the belfry level. This will hold the structure in place and protect workers as higher levels of stonework are opened up for future repairs.

Steeple Repairs Phase 1 Completed in 2019

The company started work on the tower base in April of 2019. Staging was set up and the first two stones, where highly visible and dangerous cracks were located, were removed to examine the condition of mortar behind them. The structural engineering survey identified twenty-one locations to be cored through the face stone and through the rubble backup stone without penetrating the interior face stone.

When coring was completed, stainless steel pins were fabricated to the depth of each core, inserted and surrounded by pumped-in structural grout. The steel pins and grout have stabilized the mass of interior core stone, which is four feet thick at the tower base. After the structural grout was pumped in around the pins, a face piece of each numbered core was fitted to plug the openings, then sealed with mortar which was blended to match the historic mortar color.

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Friends of the Stone Church and Hardwick Historical Society partner to save historic building

GILBERTVILLE 2015 – Secretary of State William Galvin recently awarded a matching funds contract for $50,000 from the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund to the Hardwick Historical Society for emergency stabilization of the 1872 Trinitarian Congregational Church building in Gilbertville.

Unheated for the last two years, the building now needs roof and other repairs. The contents include a historic Johnson & Son organ that was restored and celebrated by a community-based group called “Friends of the Gilbertville Organ,” carved interior woodwork, evocative stained glass windows and historic records related to Gilbertville history. Many of these features, notably the organ, are threatened by humidity and water leaking through the slate roof and through the hand-quarried walls and bell tower and under the foundation.

A proposal was submitted for Emergency Stabilization funding to the Massachusetts Historical Commission, a division of the Office of the Secretary of State that assists in the preservation of historic properties and places with National Register status. The agreement, which provides MHC funds to seal the slate roof and repair interior areas damaged by water, requires the grant recipient to invest a minimum of $50,000 worth of improvements, funded by contributions or donated services, for stabilization improvements. These include a new zoned heating and de-humidification systems.

Preserving the building