CLAVERACK — In 1828 a brick Bell Tower was added to the Reformed Dutch Church of Claverack’s façade. This year, 193 years later, three major sanctuary projects were launched. The three projects are fabricating a new roof at the top of the Bell Tower, installing a new roof for the dome at the north end of the church, and restoring parts of the Belfry that need work and painting. The brick church, located on Route 9-H in the Village of Claverack is an example of Hudson Valley Dutch architecture. The sanctuary was built in 1767, and is the oldest public building in continuous service in Columbia County. Listed on the New York State and National Register of Historical Places, it is one of Claverack’s architectural gems.
To insure that the historical restoration follows the New York State guidelines for restoration of structures on its Register of Historical Places, the firm of Egan Church Restorations located in North Kingston, Rhode Island was hired to complete the three projects. The cost of the projects as submitted by Egan Church Restorations is $118,500.00. During historical restoration projects, there are often structural and repair problems that are not uncovered until after a project is started. To make allowances for the unknown, the final estimate cost is $150,000.00. In today’s perspective, the cost of the three projects is less expensive than the purchase of some houses, but more expensive than a Colonial era project.
In the early Colonial days, metal was extremely hard to obtain and expensive. Copper, having an expected life expectancy of 70 to 100 years depending on the region and the climate was used on the roof areas to eliminate any future maintenance. Given the number of years that the Bell Tower roof and the dome roof have endured, the use of copper for the restoration rings true. Most Belfries were made from locally harvested timber as are the eight pillars and the decorative cornices around the sanctuary’s Belfry. The use of the Colonial materials as copper for a roof covering for the tower, and the use of copper clips, nails, gutter downspouts and flashings, and the repair of any wooden part of the Belfry to its original structure will stand as specified in New York State guidelines for historical restoration projects.
Access to the Belfry is a difficult stair case to navigate. John Dunham, church member wonders how in the 1800s all the materials and large timbers were lifted to the height of the Belfry. In the present time, this month, to access the outside of the Belfry for repair and painting of any wood, an 85 foot boom lift will be rented by Egan Church Restorations. It is the better decision to also repair the hanging apparatus for the Meneely 1879 bell during the time when the boom truck is at the site. The view from a distance of the boom lift will be a signal to residents that the project on the Bell Tower and the Belfry is preceding on schedule as have other past church restoration projects.
In 2000, Frank Starkes, long time church member of the congregation accepted the challenge of raising $100,000.00 to repair the timbers of the sanctuary roof. Starkes was successful because, the community became part of the project by giving generously to the repair of the sanctuary roof.
Reverend David Corlett, once pastor of the church said in his presentation given on the anniversary of the first 250 years of the sanctuary’s completion that the restoration and preservation of the historical structure is one that begins with remembrance. The footprint takes shape with reflection and the historical foot print is lived and made through recommitment for the future. These three present projects are again a commitment to the future of Claverack as an historical village, and a commitment to the future.
The community of friends in Columbia County is invited to be part of the restoration of the Bell Tower, the Belfry and the Dome roof. Three events planned to raise money this fall are: Trifles and Treasures Sale 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sept. 18. Many homemade quilts will be on display from the balconies. This event presents an opportunity to view the interior of the historic church. On Nov. 20, The Annual Church Bazaar will be held from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. On Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m. Jonathan Kruk will present A Christmas Carol in the sanctuary. A reception will be held prior to this event. A celebration of Thanks Giving will be held in the spring. Sunday services at 9:30 a.m. every Sunday are open to everyone.
To make a contribution to the Sanctuary Bell Tower and Dome Restoration Fund (SBT&DRF), checks may be sent to Reformed Dutch Church of Claverack, Drawer K, Claverack, NY, 12513, or by visiting the website: claverackreformedchurch.org. Click on Donate and scroll down. For answers to questions, please call 518 851 3811. Your questions will be forwarded to the best person to answer your questions.