The town paid $1 for the old Montville Center Congregational Church, and on first glance, some folks would say the town paid too much.
The panels on the front doors are barely holding together. In the entryway, or narthex, the ceiling is falling down. Bits and pieces of the church have followed. Rodents have left snacks for the winter, have torn off carpet backing to use for bedding and have left other, um, evidence of inhabitation.
But honestly, that’s the worst of it.
In the sanctuary, the ceiling soars, giving the small church a feeling of spaciousness. That ceiling is patterned tin, and apart from the section over the narthex and the balcony, where, according to Town Chairman and historyian Donna Jacobson, the women sat, it is in good shape.
In fact, the rest of the church feels like it’s worth way more than $1.
Sure, there are George Jetson-style lamps hanging incongruously from the ceiling. Sure, the carpet between where the pulpit should be and where the lectern should be is old and a little dank and very green. Sure, the floor of this raised area feels a little soggy, said Mayor Joe Jaskiewicz, bouncing up and down on it.
The town had an engineer examine the church before the closing happened, and the engineer reported that the building was structurally sound. The problems with the ceilings in and above the narthex come from a leak around the bell tower, which apparently still houses a bell. Jaskiewicz says the town has budgeted money to repair the roof.
The next phase in the building’s life will be handled by a subcommittee that will be under the auspices of the Town Administration / Rules and Procedures Standing Committee.
Ellen Hillman, chairman of that committee, said that the subcommittee will consist of seven members, including Town Historian Jon Chase, a member of the historical society, a representative of the Raymond Library, and four at-large members.
Anyone who wants to serve on the subcommittee should apply at the town clerk’s office.
The mayor has high hopes for the process and for the building. The first step is to get the roof fixed, and get some basic landscaping accomplished. Then, paint the building. Jaskiewicz is hoping that volunteers will show up, willing to donate time and energy. He wouldn’t turn down donations of materials or funds, either. Jaskiewicz also hopes that now that the town owns the building, it will be able to get grants to help restore it.
Preliminary ideas are to use the building as a reading room for the library, or as a home for historical documents, but the future is open.
Now, that $1 looks like a better deal, doesn’t it?
To read about the history of the church, click here.
To read a glossary of the church architecture and furnishings, click here.