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The Restoration Project Update.

Our Mission is to sustain the integrity and beauty of the Acworth Meetinghouse and to honor its past and secure its future.

In January 2006, the Steeple of the Acworth Meetinghouse was removed from its bell tower by  community volunteer workers under the leadership of Acworth building contractor, Charlie Haines, and McMillen Construction. The Steeple was then placed safely on pylons on the Church  common and all of the important architectural parts were stored for future replacement. Funding assistance by the congregation of the United Church of Acworth made this first step possible.

In the ensuing 2 years, the Restoration committee grew with the addition of an administrative assistant, and several experienced residents in the field of fund raising, building construction, and project organization. Members of that committee attended seminars held by the N.H. Preservation Alliance program of Saving Sacred Places on project building and fund raising.

In 2007, the committee hired an historic timber frame restoration expert, Aaron Sturgis, who completed a total analysis of the restoration needs of the Meetinghouse with project costs projected at $1,000,000. The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance’s Maggie Stier and Architectural Historian, James Garvin, worked with the committee in providing the guidance needed to move forward.

In the summer of 2007, the Acworth Meetinghouse received the annual recognition Award by “Seven to Save”, a N.H. organization dedicated to saving important architectural historic structures.

This past year, with a grant of $130,000 from the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program , an anonymous gift of $100,000, and a generous outpouring from the community, the committee began the first phase of the restoration work.

Phase I included resolving the serious drainage problem of water flow around the perimeter of the Meetinghouse, eliminating the mold in the foundation, basement and first floor undercarriage and addressing structural damage, rotten wood replacement and bolstering the supporting beams. Correcting the drainage problem was paramount to the project and with the assistance of Construction Engineer, Ted Fellows, Lyle Balla of R.L.Balla Inc., Support & collaboration by the Town of Acworth and Road Agent, Kerry Smith, Committee member and local Building Contractor, Ken Christie, the issue of water flow was totally resolved. It also included replacing a very outdated septic system. At the same time, a group of local volunteers took on the basement clean out so that work could begin on the undercarriage, mold and support beams.

In February of 2008, an energetic and enthusiastic group of 17 local building contractors came together to work on the problems confronting us with the Meetinghouse undercarriage. Timbers cut to specification by Lester Phillips, Great Brook Timber Products and Bob Balla, R.L Balla, Inc. were delivered to the site. Work under the direction and plans of Aaron Sturgis along with Project Manager, Ken Christie, on the structural damage, rotten wood replacement and the bolstering of the support beams commenced. This part of the project was completed in 2/3 the time  and at 2/3 the proposed cost. An impressive piece of work that only a tour of the Meetinghouse could convey.

In 2008, the restoration work on the tower base frame, the belfry frame and the Steeple itself is in full swing. A Capital Fund Raising Campaign is underway with the guidance of Christine Graham, fund raising consultant. With additional generous financial assistance and support, the committee will complete the next part of Phase I, this year. Right now, the steeple has been stripped of all the outer covering materials. Paint is being stripped from all of the original wood trim and the supports are being examined for further damage. They will be reused if possible, with replacement where rot has been too extensive.

This work has exposed a earlier creative repair to damage to the Steeple  The eight-sided tapered beam in the center of the steeple cracked during the destructive hurricane that devastated New England in 1938. Some local carpenters at the time took on the task of repairing the cracked beam. All work was done with the steeple in place high above the town common in the center of Acworth. The top third of the center beam was encased in steel. (This can be easily viewed now that the steeple is on the ground with the frame and center beam exposed.) Linda Christie’s grandfather, Hugh Clark, then climbed to the top of the steeple, on the outside of the structure, took off the weathervane and poured concrete through the top of the steeple and into the steel girdle to reinforce the cracked beam.

Currently the Steeple center beam has been replaced with a new one that was cut on site by Ken Christie, Project Manager, and his portable sawmill,  so that the restoration of the Steeple will be as much like the original as possible. Crane work was necessary to assist with the difficult work of installing that center post.  During this work, the children of the Acworth School stopped by to observe the ongoing work. They were invited to sign their names on the new center post before the Steeple was closed in.

Being on site is quite an experience for both observers and the workmen. You can hear the pride and admiration for the work that was done in 1821 and now in 2008 by all those who have ventured to the church on the hill and those working on the Project. The Acworth Meetinghouse Restoration Project is surely a labor of love.