Westhampton church steeple repaired, weathervane hoisted

Friday, October 10, 2014
WESTHAMPTON — Less than four months after launching the public phase of a $200,000 fundraising campaign, the Westhampton Congregational Church of Christ has received pledges for over 95 percent of the funds and completed one of the most visible parts of the renovation work.

The 185-year-old church’s spire on top of the steeple had been tilting ominously, but it is standing straight again after repairs which cost $37,650, said Richard W. Tracy, a member of the campaign committee.

Workers Tuesday reinstalled the weather vane on top of the spire that had been removed due to the tilting, while a crowd of onlookers watched far below.

“We’re making a celebration of it,” Tracy said of the hoisting of the weather vane, which had been sitting in the church’s vestibule for months.

The capital campaign is raising money not only to repair the spire, but also to install new front doors, replace 130-year-old windows with more energy-efficient ones, and put new flooring in two rooms.

Tracy said that church leaders launched the “quiet” phase of the campaign last September when they determined the repairs were needed, but they did not know what was causing the spire to lean. When work began on it this summer, they were pleased to find out that fears it was rotting were unfounded.

Inside the steeple, wooden braces that supported the spire’s center pole had shrunk over time and fallen out, allowing it to move and lean. Workers replaced them with steel braces, Tracy said. “It could have been worse, although it was still a lot of money,” he added.

During the renovations, campaign committee members and other volunteers have been seeking donations from the church’s approximately 225 members. Along with a few non-members, they have pledged over $190,000, Tracy said. “But we’re finding that the last $7,000 or $8,000 is the hardest” to raise, he added.

The committee hopes to collect one-third of the funds by the end of September.

“The highest capital campaign we had in the past was $90,000, so there was some skepticism” that the current fundraising would be successful, Tracy said.

“But people rose to the occasion. They came through,” he said.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.