2017 Preservation Achievement Award: Northwood Congregational Church for outstanding restoration and rehabilitation of its landmark building
with: Preservation Timber Framing, Monadnock Archaeological Consulting, LCHIP
Built in 1840, the Northwood Congregational Church served the community of Northwood Center satisfactorily for the first hundred years of its existence, but by 1940 the congregation had dwindled and the church was closed. It was used only sporadically for the next forty-eight years for an occasional wedding and the yearly Coe Brown Academy Baccalaureate services. A new congregation formed in 1988 and began the long process of bringing the building back from a state of neglect and disrepair.
According to Chris Kofer, who accepted the award on behalf of the congregation, what started out as a routine investigation into their failing front decking material quickly turned into a $450,000 project. The relatively small congregation raised $250,000 and received a $200,000 LCHIP grant to tackle the deteriorated structural elements and restore the exterior of the church.
In 2015 and 2016, the bell tower was temporarily supported while the four Doric columns were removed for repair. After archaeological work was completed, the portico deck was entirely removed, a new foundation with proper drainage was installed and the original granite capstones were re-positioned. A white oak timber frame and planking system replaced the existing deck while massive timbers were installed inside the restored columns to transfer the bell tower weight to the new foundation.
Inside the bell tower, girts, braces and bed timbers were replaced due to excessive rotting. The King posts in the main trusses in the attic were restored from damage that occurred during a lightning strike. The sanctuary chancel was lifted to allow a new foundation and sills to be installed. The pilasters, decorative trim and flashings on the exterior of the bell tower were repaired and replaced as necessary, and the entire exterior of the church was painted. The crowning touch of the project was the duplication and replacement of the balustrade on top of the bell tower that had previously blown down in a windstorm.
Kofer added, "Our project has been completed and in retrospect, all are very thankful that our congregation chose to care for our sanctuary [in a manner] that very much respects its history."
Before the project began, a banner hung from the columns that read, “Don’t judge a church by its outside.” The congregation now welcomes not only your judging eyes as you pass by on Route 4, but they extend a genuinely warm welcome to any and all to step inside and worship.
Photos courtesy of Preservation Timber Framing.