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First Congregational Church tackles structural problem

Published 5:54 pm, Wednesday, November 14, 2012
  • Structural issues directly above the pulpit have caused officials of the First Congregational Church in New Milfoird to close the sanctuary until the problem has been resolved. November 2012 Photo: Norm Cummings
    Structural issues directly above the pulpit have caused officials of the First Congregational Church in New Milfoird to close the sanctuary until the problem has been resolved. November 2012 Photo: Norm Cummings

 

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A sagging beam in the attic of the First Congregational Church in New Milford has forced closure of the sanctuary until further notice.

A structural engineer was hired to assess the problem and plans are being prepared for the shoring of the beam from underneath, according to the Rev. Michael Moran.

The sanctuary was closed in late October on the engineer's recommendation.

"The civil engineer said people should not be allowed in the sanctuary until more can be found out about the extent of the problem," said the Rev. Robert McGrath, minister for stewardship and development.

"They're going to put bracing in to hold the beam in place, and then get more civil engineers in to determine further the extent of work that will be needed."

Rev. Moran wrote a letter to the congregation mailed out last week.

"When Pete Richardson and Bob Quimby were on the roof, replacing the lights that shine on the steeple, they noticed the roof was dipped down above the pulpit area," Rev. Moran wrote. "They went into the attic above the sanctuary and it appeared the beam in there was sagging. This was reported to the trustees who engaged a structural engineer."

The schedule for the project has not been determined. It is unknown if the building will be able to be used once the shoring is in place.

Sunday worship is now being held in the Marish Parish House auditorium.

Outside groups using the church facilities have also been relocated to the parish house.

The church building was built on the Village Green in 1832. In 1839, a chapel was added to the rear, according to the First Congregational website.

A remodeling was done to the sanctuary and fellowship hall in 1938. A general remodeling and refurbishing of the church was conducted in 1966, the website states.

Rob Burkhart, president of the New Milford Trust for Historic Preservation, said the church is "one of the main icons on the Green."

"We've always been with them in their work to keep the building safe," Mr. Burkhart said.

However, he was not surprised to hear of the sanctuary's structural issue.

"Construction was not done in those times to the same standards followed today," Mr. Burkhart said. "Structurally, many buildings were weakened when additions were added."

Mr. Burkhart noted, however, the structural integrity of the sanctuary "has passed muster for a while now."

"I know it has been inspected and that it passed those inspections," he said. "But if you look at these old structures, this happens with a lot of them."

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322