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Congregation revives Port Williams United Baptist Church

Congregation members at the Port Williams United Baptist Church are working hard to preserve a historic landmark within the community.
Congregation members at the Port Williams United Baptist Church are working hard to preserve a historic landmark within the community.

PORT WILLIAMS - By the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary next year, the exterior of the Port Williams United Baptist Church will be sporting a new look.

Fortunately, though, no significant changes were necessary to the church's elegant and iconic steeple, a focal point for the village and the surrounding area for many years.

A couple of years ago, leaks were discovered in the basement and parlour area, from which mold and dry rot were beginning to develop.

Congregation member Ron Buckley said there was also evidence of mice discovered in the area between the church proper and the foundation.

“We knew there was a leak, but we didn't know where it was,” said Buckley, a part of the congregation for more than 20 years.

“We traced it to where the base of the steeple joins onto the church. The only way to locate it was to remove some of the exterior cladding and do an investigation.”

Roscoe Construction, a Kings County company that had done work on the church in the past, was brought in. Fortunately, their consulting engineer gave the steeple “a clean bill of health,” Buckley said.

It was decided to investigate the cost of doing the necessary repairs, and at the same time, replace the exterior cladding with modern vinyl siding.

The church was already due for repainting and one suggestion was that siding be installed, Buckley said.

“There were some of the congregation who didn't want to use siding because they liked the original wood,” he added.

The cost of the project was estimated to be in the $100,000 range.

“We wanted to raise between $110,000 and $120,000,” said Buckley, adding that they wanted to be in a good position to deal with unexpected expenses.

A fundraising effort got underway in earnest in early 2016.

Fellow congregation member Joan Churchill pointed to the underpinnings holding the steeple as the primary concern.

“We had chosen the slogan Save Our Steeple, when we originally thought the steeple would need to be replaced,” Churchill said.

The congregation has raised between $85,000 and $90,000 in an effort to restore a landmark that is important to the community, Churchill said.

The fundraising “hasn't been that big a push,” she added.

“We've had donations from members of the congregation, from former congregation members who now live elsewhere, and from local residents who aren't part of our congregation.”

This, Buckley believes, reflects the iconic nature of the steeple in particular. “It's part of the village logo,” he said, adding that one of the newer subdivisions in the village has a street called Steeple View.

“When we built the piece on the church (coming up on 20 years ago), that cost $200,000, and it ended up being paid off fairly quickly.”

The installation of the new siding is going well, and they were pleased to see the old lumber appeared to be in fairly good condition.

“Very little actual repair needed to be done. We were fortunate there. We ended up with not as much work as we planned, but also some work that we hadn't planned,” said Buckley.

“It was nice to see the investigation of the steeple showed it was sound.”

New flashing has been added, which should address concerns relating to dampness.

The entire congregation has been part of the fundraising effort.

“Our young people did a concert as a fundraiser last Christmas,” said Churchill, adding that “money is still coming in.”

The to-do list includes finishing the siding, completing the steeple repairs and replacing the basement windows in the sanctuary.

Buckley figured the work would likely be done “within the month,” after which the congregation can focus on a heat pump/air exchanger to help heat the church in winter and keep it cool in summer.

And, of course, they are also planning to celebrate the 150th anniversary of their church building, which will take place beginning in January of next year.

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