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Raising the Roof
the installation of our new slate roof in 1984, attention was directed
to repairs needed on the church tower. In April 1992, Margaret Westfield,
Architect and Preservation Consultant, along with Richard Ortega of Ortega
Engineering visited the site to inspect the tower for a June grant application.
When Ortega reached the balcony on the tower, he noticed "sag lines"
in the church roof. His instinct led him to the open area above the ceiling
where he and Westfield found nine broken roof trusses during their inspection.
The church was immediately closed and cordoned off with yellow police
tape. Due to the imminent danger, no one was permitted inside the building.
Collapse was a strong possibility with predictions between 30 seconds
or 30 days due to variables of excess weight on the roof, heavy traffic
or the vibrations of singing voices. One parishioner's comments said it
all: The shock was like the death of a friend.
As word spread of the dilemma, churches in town offered worship space,
newspapers spread the story, community people volunteered time and the
congregation gathered in the Parish House for Services. At personal risk,
with the understanding of the danger, volunteers emptied the church of
books, artifacts, music, vestments and all the items needed for Services.
Excess materials were packed and stored in the tower. Eventually two storage
trailers were donated and used for larger items such as the altar, bishop's
chair, organ, cushions and font. The piano was stored and a member gave
a home organ for use. (You haven't lived until you share the organ bench
with parishioners at a crowded Christmas Eve Service!) Meanwhile, Ortega
and Westfield returned to "the drawing board" and re-wrote the
grant request for the June deadline.
In June, the New Jersey Historic Trust awarded a grant to Trinity Church.
The dollar amount of the award was modified as the extent of the damage
and restoration expanded. By this time, temporary shoring towers had been
installed in the church to support the roof trusses and lessen the chance
of collapse. Monitors were installed to measure movement of the walls
and steel bands wrapped the building as additional support. More than
$90,000 had been spent for structural studies, shoring towers and scaffolding
and no true figure for repairs were known. To assist with the documentation
of the structure and modifications over the years, volunteers studied
the church records and helped compile a 700 page document that serves
today as part of the church's history.
With the financial backing of the NJHT, the project was ready for bid.
Since the grants are matching, Trinity had to raise funds to equal the
$250,000 award. Considering the size of the congregation, poor economy
and surrounding farm area at the time, this was overwhelming and took
close to three years to accomplish. In February 1995 the project commenced
under contract with Haverstick-Borthwick of Plymouth Meeting, PA.
Floor boards were removed to inspect and sister (strengthen) beams, the
sandstone foundation was reinforced, and concrete support towers were
installed under the pillars in the basement (in lieu of a pile of rocks!)
Portions of the balcony ceiling were opened to install "hangars"
for additional balcony support. The arched plaster ceiling was removed,
and scaffolding filled the church interior to permit access to the roof
truss structure. The slate roof was taken off and stacked for storage
and a blue tarp covered the open structure. Trusses and support beams
were strengthened with a method called epoxy consolidation. All work was
done with preservation in mind: as much as possible, little of the historic
fabric of the building was destroyed or removed. The resulting steel support
system for the roof trusses, king posts and beams is unique and served
as a guide for repairs in two other Episcopal churches that later suffered
the same fate as Trinity. It is difficult for those unfamiliar with the
restoration work to see any changes from the million dollar project! The
exceptions are the Plexiglas area in the ceiling near the organ that allows
a portion of the original plaster to be seen and the pilasters against
the front wall built to support a steel beam over the palladium window.
Completion of the first grant took only six months and the Re-Dedication
Service was held in October 1995. Since NJHT grants only pay for "nuts
and bolts", the congregation had to meet the additional expenses
of painting the interior, installing new carpeting, electrical and fire
alarms systems, and replacing various items lost in the restoration work.
Much of those expenses were covered from Memorial Donations. The second
NJHT grant was awarded in 1995 and allowed restoration of the tower and
steeple to proceed.
Again, Trinity had to match the $150,000 grant.
Financial support came from many sources. In 1995 Woodstown National Bank
issued a 10 year, adjustable rate loan with the approval of the Diocese.
As contract work was approved, draws were made for payments. At the completion
of the grants in 1999 Trinity faced a debt of $176,508. One loan required
$20,000 in principal per year plus monthly interest payments that exceeded
$600. The other required a set pay-off date plus interest of $400 per
month. This was accomplished through numerous fund-raisers, funds from
an anonymous donor and the annual golf tournament. Today, maintenance
dictated by the Easement with NJHT, as well as repairs to the walls and
cemetery still requires fund raisers to finance the work.
The tower project, described in prior articles, was completed in 1999.
The most noticeable change was the replacement of the finials and panels
that are on the upper levels. Final acceptance of the grants and release
of retainage was made in January 2003 by NJHT. At that time the Easement
went into effect: under the terms of the agreement, Trinity must inspect,
repair and maintain the building in the same condition as it is now for
the next 20 years. It must be open to the public for tours, no changes
can be made to the interior or exterior as left at the completion of the
grant work without NJHT approval, and failure to comply can lead to return
of the funds given for the restoration work $400,000. The NJHT
uses these guidelines to protect buildings on the National and State Historic
Registers for the benefit of future generations.
As we step back and look at the work accomplished against all financial
odds, and the hundreds of volunteers hours contributed, we are reminded
of a former Swedish pastor's comment about Trinity's congregation; "the
Raccoon people were more obstinate and spunky than ever." May we
also remain so to preserve our house of worship!