As a summer resident, I have not had the benefit of hearing the village debate the choices for this renovation, but I will add my one small point: it is a joy to see the steeple from afar - either from the water or coming down the road toward the bridge. As the physical presence of the boatyard has grown, this architectural feature has become more aesthetically meaningful (for me.) Aside from that, I appreciate the thought and time that has gone into preserving this building's historical integrity, and yield to the people who are more knowledgeable about the budget constraints.
Phil Norris writes: My reasons for wanting to remove the steeple are mostly aesthetic and have more to do with a historical perspective than a monetary one. The architecture of the East Blue Hill Baptist Church was typical of the meeting houses of the nineteenth century in this area with a square open bell tower. There are many still standing up and down the Maine coast. But none as pretty as this one. The first time I saw an old photo of the original bell tower, I fell in love. The steeple, added in 1950, is a handsome one, but the original bell tower is a treasure. After replacing the sills on the north side I realized that this is an exceedingly well-built hall. The builder really knew what he was doing. I propose to match the craftsmanship of the 1880 builder in restoring the bell and bell tower. Now that the building is no longer a church I think the original design is more appropriate.
Has anyone got an estimate for an aluminum clad steeple? Nice to compare cost of painting steeple every 7 years with not having to paint it ever again.
I live in Topsham, Maine. My church in Brunswick, ME (Good Shepherd Lutheran) had the steeple replaced within the last ten years with a fiberglass one we purchased from Virginia. It was not that expensive and it looks great. I'm a descendant of Joel Long and hope you replace the steeple with a new one. Whatever decision you make I'm a supporter of EBH! Steve Mallett
remove steeple; replace original bell tower
I find the current steeple to be attractive, but am open to reverting it to the original design if money is an issue. I think if someone could do a mock up of the two options which includes the current front decking and side entrance it might be helpful.
On balance, I find myself leaning toward reverting to the original open bell tower. Though it is apparently the more expensive option initially, my sense is that longer term it will be less costly and less difficult to maintain and keep in good repair. Additionally, might reverting to original architecture position the building better for future grant opportunities through grant programs for historical buildings? Finally, I appreciate how well VIA is guiding the discourse as we head toward this important and potentially divisive decision. Thank you
I don't have strong feelings either way, though I am intrigued by why the original builders decided on a bell-tower... and like the thought of respecting their original design. Jeanne
I feel we should restore the Italianate bell tower as it was the original way the church was selected and designed
Take down the steeple -- keep the bell tower
Personally think the Bell Tower - open - should be the right answer and makes the building unique yet original. IMHO it looks so much better and easier to maintain than the current.
Are there grant monies available for historic, religious structures? Donors? Depending on the extent of disrepair, if not structural but more cosmetic, painting/caulking, and as part of painting entire building project (if needed) addresses bigger picture.
I think we should try and make the building as low maintenance as possible. If removing the steeple helps achieve that then I’m all for it.
I cannot make the Tuesday evening meetings as I take Sam to Bangor every Tuesday.
Our church building was built in 1880 in the Italianate Style, which was common at the time for churches in Downeast Maine (there is a similar church on Rt 3 in Trenton with a tower but no steeple). It is a style that typically does not include steeples, which were considered more appropriate for churches built in a classical style like the two churches in Blue Hill and the Congregational Church in Ellsworth. The founding members of the church did not include a steeple as it would have been out of keeping with the style of building they envisioned for their new church.
Starting in the 1950s, a belief developed that to be a 'church' a building must have a steeple. This led to the addition (and resultant structural and cultural damage) to numerous historic churches in the area. It was a period when there was very little concern for historic buildings, their cultural significance to their communities or the harm that would be done by making 'improvements' that were insensitive to the original buildings.
The steeple on our building was installed in the 1950s. To install the steeple, the original structure of the bell tower (along with the architectural detailing around the belfry) was removed to add increased structural support for the new steeple. This destroyed most of the original architectural detailing that was clearly important to the founding members of the church when they decided on the design for their new church.
Maintenance and Costs
The existing steeple is in poor condition. It has not been properly maintained for decades due to the costs associated with the repairs and maintenance. There are quite a few rotted boards on the steeple that must be replaced. A painting crew able to work on steeples must be hired at an increased cost. This maintenance will be an on-going and expensive issue should we decide to retain the steeple. How does this village intend to generate the funds required to keep the steeple in good repair so it doesn't eventually fall over in a gale and destroy the main church building?
There is a crew of energized and skilled individuals here in the village who have offered to remove the steeple, restore the belfry as close to its original appearance as possible and return the building to the appearance the original church members intended when they set out to build the church in 1880. While this will require an outlay of funds in the beginning, it will not add any additional maintenance costs to the building. Instead the removal of the steeple will avoid the significant and continual costs directly associated with the steeple's repair and maintenance. It would return the building back to the appearance intended by the church founders, who worked so hard to create what became the most significant building in this village.
Please consider my response as the same as Clifton’s- so wrong to keep steeple. Not sure how you will raise money for its restoration and on-going long term upkeep in our aging village. Let’s restore to classic original form and be sensible.
Sally and I like the steeple.
Bob & Sally Cole
1265 Morgan Bay Road
I love architecture and old buildings, especially important ones and certainly the Baptist Church now Founders Hall qualifies as 'important' 'and 'old.' Unfortunately, church steeples, in particular, are terribly expensive to replace and/or maintain. I was involved with a UU church in Yarmouth, ME which needed to be replaced and it cost many thousands of dollars and of course, needed upkeep practically from the moment it was finished. Even in a highly populated place with a lot of fairly well off parishioners, it was a huge undertaking and difficult to fund. The church then got a new minister many of us didn't like and we moved on to a church in Portland.
The Portland UU Church was having steeple issues by then and needed to be replaced so the whole process started over again. It took years of fundraising and a lot of effort on many people's part and Eureka, it's in place. But it will be costly to maintain.
I don't know why steeples are so very expensive but they are. I also don't know if there are carpenters among us who could help keep the costs down. They would need to be paid a fair wage of course but having it local might help keep the costs down.
So I'm in favor of making it as close to the original as possible but not if it means draining the community's resources and causing hardships. Buildings do change sometimes and not always for the worse, though in general, I think they tend to be less attractive. Yankee ingenuity is clearly needed but an eye to maintenance must be considered.
I'd like to think that a design for some sort of structure in/on which the bell could reside would be possible. If wood, then ALL the new wood could be stained, not painted, on all 4 sides before construction. There might be another material that would be more durable and need less maintenance. Whatever happens, I'd hate to see EBH strapped with an ongoing financial drain which if not thoughtfully figured out ahead of time is what steeples seem to engender. How sad because they can be so very beautiful!!
I grew up going to this church and knowing everyone in town since 1965. I have thought I wanted to keep the steeple as it was what I knew and loved. Now I'm coming from a little different perspective. I feel it should be about cost and maintenance to keep up. Pros and cons. How much would it cost to redo it as it was so long ago? I'm not sure, many, if any, can remember it as it was in this photo. How much would it cost to maintain and/or repair what is already there? They are both beautiful in their own way. The steeple gives the iconic feel of an old New England town that is homey and safe. The bell tower gives a bit of a different feel, not so secular yet stately. I have many fond memories in this Church and it will always be the Church to me, no matter what you do to the inside or the outside. My memories can't be changed and are permanent fixtures in my mind. I think cost and maintenance play a bigger role at this point. It's not a battle of who wants what and what is right or wrong. It's a decision about what is doable now and for the future, financially and structurally. Where is Jerry Long when we need him?! He knew everything and was so good natured about everything. Too bad we didn't have more of him around. A true icon. I bet he's chuckling as he looks down on us and saying something like, SIlly people. Just treat each other right. Follow your hearts.
Keep the steeple and paint it. I like the idea of the old New England village look, even though I am not religious. Patsy McCurdy
I am in support of returning the bell tower to its original, architecturally correct state. Firstly, I love the simplicity of the design. We see it echoed around our community, like the building at GSA.Secondly., and most importantly, it is the most economical approach to maintaining the building. We are an organization of little means and every dollar we raise comes with a lot of effort. I believe that once the initial restoration is complete, we can then take care of the tower ourselves. The present steeple will require us hiring outside help to paint and maintain. I would like to see us spend our hard earning fundraising on other things in the village!
I just got back from two days driving in rural Pennsylvania. In every town I visited I saw the devastation caused by industrialized agriculture and big box stores, with the subsequent loss of jobs and population. As an architect, the saddest part of this for me is what is happened to the buildings. There, as in New England, the level of original craftsmanship was quite high. Now, fine houses, barns, churches and public meeting halls fall into ruin, abandoned for metal buildings and vinyl-clad mobile homes. It made me appreciate and not take for granted how lucky we are that there is in East Blue Hill such care and concern for Founders Hall.
I want to learn more through this debate about the history of the tower and steeple because those considerations, as much as maintenance and costs, should be a big part of the decision. I love how the steeple graces our first view of the village, and I love the photograph of the original bell tower.
My main concern is that WHATEVER we do, we do it right, in a way that honors the original craftsmen who built this structure. If we replace the bell tower in this manner we shouldn’t fool ourselves that this is going to be easy, or cheap. Doing it right means carefully duplicating the original detailing and proportions, both for aesthetics and for long-term maintenance. It’s going to take real finish carpentry skills, careful waterproofing details, and worked-out drawings. The last thing we want to see is a homemade hat. I question that we will get the end product we want with purely volunteer labor.
The maintenance argument cuts both ways, so I don’t think it should be the determinant. Balustrades and low sloped roofs are notoriously difficult to maintain. I can easily imagine that in the 1950’s, after years of replacing bad wood, repainting, fixing roof leaks, it may have seemed mighty attractive to rip all that ornament off and just put a nice steep cap on the whole thing. Who knows?
It is easy to say one or the other approach will be the more economical. It would certainly be educational—and important if a decision is to be based on economics—to get a builder’s estimate of the costs of each approach, and the relative ongoing costs of a restored steeple vs a restored belfry.
At the end of all this rambling, I am coming to this: keeping the steeple seems to be a lower risk proposition. Taking on rebuilding the original belfry seems fraught with chances that things could go off the tracks and divert the village’s resources for several years from other needed projects. And please, steeple or belfry, no vinyl or aluminum anywhere on such a fine building! There are a number of composite wood products that don’t peel and rot and that hold paint or stain a long time.
Happy to help in any way I can whichever way we decide… except climbing tall ladders.
I love the idea of restoring the bell tower. I would love to hear the bell. I attended the meeting in the library where Phil presented the possible alternatives and initially was certain that I thought we should preserve the steeple. But the bell tower looks more like the community building that Founder's Hall has become and the proportions are lovely. I won't be at the meeting. We are in Arizona visiting a friend. Thanks, Lee Lehto