CHATHAM – Scaffolding went up over the front facade of the First United Methodist Church last week in preparation for a major restoration project on the historic Main Street structure.
Work was scheduled to begin this week to remove old vinyl siding, replacing it with more durable material, and install a new front entrance on the 1849 building. The project was funded by $226,000 in community preservation funds, approved at May's annual town meeting, and the work is being done by Cape Associates.
Church Board of Trustees member Lynn Long said the work was to begin once the scaffolding was completed, but depended in large part on the weather. Because lead paint was found on clapboards beneath some of the vinyl siding, the scaffolding will be enclosed, she added.
In the past 13 years, the church has spent more than $1 million on restoration, preservation and upgrades to the Greek Revival church, which the town's historical commission has declared is a historically significant structure. While there was debate at town meeting about dedicating taxpayer funds to a church project, proponents successfully argued that the building is a significant contributor to the town's historic streetscape. A similar argument prevailed the previous year when St. Christopher's Episcopal Church sought CPA money.
All of work will take place on the exterior of the church and has been approved by the historic business district commission.
Long said this past Sunday was the first time the front entrance was inaccessible. But with three entrances on the Cross Street side of the building, “everybody found their way in,” she said.
Long said the goal is to complete the work before Christmas.