Work starts to repair St. Michael Church in Pawcatuck

Stonington — Almost four years after structural problems forced the closure of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Pawcatuck, work has begun to repair the church and restore some original architectural elements not seen in generations.

Parishioners had originally considered building a new $9 million church but eventually decided on a less costly $5 million plan to replace the roof, shore up the walls and upgrade its electric and cooling systems and handicapped access. 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.

“It’s really quite exciting now that movement is taking place. There’s been a lot of planning and discussion to figure out the direction we wanted to go,” said St. Michael’s pastor, the Rev. Dennis Perkins.

He said this plan, which will protect and restore the original character of the building was appealing to parishioners.

“They wanted to be back at St. Michael’s again,” he said.

Perkins said efforts are being made now as siding is being taken off the church to preserve or recreate elements of the original church that are being discovered such as terra cotta stenciling and the original location of some windows, which will be restored. Pews will also have to be modified.

He said over the next couple of months the interior of the church will be gutted. Then in the late spring and summer, the roof will be removed, leaving just the walls standing. Heavy wooden trusses will arrive and be installed by Vermont Timber Works, a company that has worked on church projects. This will create a soaring interior as the existing ceiling will be removed and the new trusses will be seen by the congregation below.

Phase II will involve restoration of the exterior walls and Phase 3 the interior work such as electrical improvements and sheet rock installation.

Perkins said the project is estimated to take about two years to complete and hopes it will be ready for Christmas services in December 2017.

He said $2.8 million has been raised for the project so far with another $700,000 in committed pledges. He said the money raised so far allowed the church to begin the work.

He praised the commitment of his parishioners to the church, which has been part of the community for more than 150 years.

Perkins pointed out that four months into previous capital campaign for the parish, word came of the structural problems. He said parishioners not only honored those pledges but the contributed more toward the campaign to fix the church.

“People have responded tremendously. It shows a great deal of commitment on behalf of the people of the parish,” he said.

j.wojtas@theday.com

@joewojtas

 

 

 

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