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Restoration keeps history alive at Sackets Harbor church (VIDEO)

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SACKETS HARBOR — Shuttered for eight years, Christ Episcopal Church has been restored and may soon host services again.

A restoration project led by the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York was finished in April, replacing the historic building’s leaky roof, ceiling and walls at 207 E. Main St. Workers installed a new heating system, while the building’s interior received a coat of light-yellow paint. Beginning last summer, construction was completed by Continental Construction Co., of Gouverneur. Crawford & Stearns Architects and Preservation Planners, Syracuse, designed the project.

Planning began after a tree limb crashed through the building’s roof in August 2006, breaking a pair of rafters. The parish had to abandon the church, transferring ownership to the diocese.

The diocese worked diligently over the past eight years to secure funding for the project, including community fundraisers. The diocese received a $119,000 grant from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and $35,000 from the New York State Landmarks Conservancy. An insurance payment of $204,738 to cover roof damage was issued by Church Mutual Insurance Co., Merrill, Wis. The diocese could not provide the total amount of donations Wednesday.

Bishop Gladstone B. “Skip” Adams III said the diocese was determined never to give up on the project, even though it took much longer than expected to acquire funding.

“Our hope was to do this in two years,” Bishop Adams said. “It took nearly eight, but we hung in there. We had to keep saying that our resolve was to make this happen. We wanted to be good neighbors with this project, because we knew it was important for the community. And we didn’t want the building to be an eyesore. When you drive by, you want to see something good, attractive and well taken care of.”

The rich history of the church, built in 1823, is a source of pride for village residents. Former New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia was a parishioner. So was Civil War commander Ulysses S. Grant, who was stationed at Madison Barracks.

The diocese, meanwhile, wants to gauge the community’s interest in starting a church congregation.

Leading efforts to launch a congregation is the Rev. Richard Laribee, who became rector of Trinity Episcopal Church of Watertown in fall 2012. He said an event to celebrate the restoration project’s completion will occur this summer at the church. The date is not yet determined.

“I have encouraged people that have any interest — whether they’re Episcopal or not — to come to an event here that will celebrate the finish of construction,” the Rev. Mr. Laribee said. “We’ll have a sign-up list to see whether there is enough interest.”

The Rev. Mr. Laribee hopes to see interest among village residents. After all, the building was restored to serve people, not to sit idle as a landmark.

“We’re not in the historic building business, but we’re in the church business,” he said. “It’s about what we can do to make the world better for the hungry, poor, depressed and homeless.”

Sackets Harbor resident Deborah A. Davis, a parishioner for 54 years, stopped by the church Wednesday to visit with the Rev. Mr. Laribee. A volunteer for project fundraisers, Mrs. Davis grew animated when she learned of its completion. Little wonder: her great-grandfather, the Rev. Walter R. Boag, served as church rector in 1914.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” she said. “This is one of the most historic churches in Sackets Harbor. Ulysses Grant rented a pew here, and we’ve had a lot of famous people that came through our doors. But more than that, my family has been here for over 100 years.”

Video featuring the restoration project can be seen at http://wdt.me/Church-Project.

Christ Episcopal Church Restoration Project
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