St. Michael Church in Pawcatuck revises reconstruction plan
Stonington -- The walls and the roof of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Pawcatuck will be taken down this summer as church officials have revised their plan to rebuild the church which closed because of structural problems in 2012.
The original stone foundation of the Liberty Street church will remain and the new steel-beamed structure that will be built will restore architectural features and windows present in the church a century ago but hidden over the past century.
“The church walls will disappear but don’t worry they will come back and they will look like the old ones,” said the Rev. Dennis Perkins last week as he stood inside the closed church where pews, altar, statues and other items have been removed. “We’ve vetted all the options and we’ve now come up with the best solution. It’s been such a winding path but we’re finally at that point where we can start.”
Starting with a $9 million plan to build a new church, parishioners eventually decided on a less costly plan to replace the roof, shore up the walls and upgrade the electric and cooling systems and handicapped access. But when an engineering firm began taking apart some of the walls this winter in preparation for construction it was determined that the walls were not straight and would need to be pulled back into place.
Perkins said that’s when he began to ask if there was another way to address the walls, possibly taking them down.
“Doing that will save money and reduce the risk,” he said. “The steel framing will be covered with clapboard and the walls will look like they always did except they will be stronger and straighter.”
Perkins said the church has raised half of the $6.5 million it needs for the project because of the generosity of its parishioners. He said this will allow the church to proceed with phase 1 which involves the replacement of the walls and roof and encloses the church. Phase 2 will involve the interior renovations including an elevator. While the completion date depends on funding, Perkins said he hopes the sight of a crane replacing the church’s roof and walls will create more excitement for the project and donations.
He said interior plans call for removing a ceiling that will expose the timbers that form the new roof and make the church higher on the inside. Restoring windows that originally existed will allow more light inside and some existing support columns will be removed, creating a more open floor plan.
The exploration of the walls have also revealed an original terracotta design that will be restored as well. The church will also have insulation, air conditioning and will be more energy efficient, according to Perkins.
Since its April 2012 closure, which came as surprise to the parish, St. Michael has held its services at St. Mary Church in the borough.