Steeple and spire restoration to start soon

The town of Camden gave $75,000 for repair to steeple housing town clock
By Susan Mustapich | May 10, 2017
Photo by: File photo The restoration of the Chestnut Street Baptist Church's steeple/clock tower begins the first week of June.

CAMDEN — The long-planned restoration of the Chestnut Street Baptist Church steeple, home to Camden's town clock, will be soon be under way.

The church, built in 1837, is the backdrop to Camden's Village Green. During an expansion of the church in 1868, David Knowlton, a prominent businessman who was not a church member, raised funds to place the town clock in the steeple. The clock has remained in the steeple ever since.

Voters at Camden's June 2016 town meeting approved $75,000 towards the steeple project.

Jeff Foltz, who has overseen the fundraising campaign,"Save Our Steeple" said May 5 he hopes the residents of Camden "know how grateful we are for that gift."

There were many people at the town meeting who felt the steeple containing the clock is part of town history, according to Foltz. "I think they will like the results of the restoration," he said.

To date, just under $40,000 of the $538,000 cost of the restoration remains to be raised. Fundraising started in May 2015, with the church's formation of a Save Our Steeple Fundraising Committee. The committee put together a slide presentation, showing the church with and without the steeple from different locations around Camden, in which the steeple is a prominent feature of the view. Committee members devoted a lot of time to making contacts and speaking with anyone who would listen, Foltz said.

In 2015, inspections of the steeple and spire revealed major structural deterioration. Two of the supporting beams running the height of the steeple were no longer connected to the ground, and the steeple was leaning. There was mold and more rot on the inside of the steeple, as well as damage to the exterior.

The church took care of an emergency repair in 2015, replacing four two-story high structural beams with two steel beams and two laminate beams seated in sizable concrete footings. The repair, which cost $85,000, was necessary because the steeple had to be secured, according to Foltz. The structural replacements are designed to last 100 years, which is the standard for the major work that will be done on the restoration.

The restoration includes the gutting and replacing of many of the supports and boards within the upper portion of the steeple with modern composite materials. Exterior repairs and painting will use materials made to withstand the steeple's exposure to coastal weather conditions.

The dramatic removal of the steeple's 44 -foot high spire by a large crane is planned for the first week of June. Scaffolding will envelop the steeple as the project gets underway. The scaffolding along is a significant cost at $120,000.

The spire will be demolished and completely rebuilt by Lyman-Morse. The rebuilt spire will be made of a composite material, and will be matched to the exact color of the original spire. The manufacturing process will duplicate the exterior detail and texture to within one thousandth of an inch. The appearance of the completed spire will be indistinguishable from wood, according to Foltz. The new spire will  protect the steeple from water infiltration.

Courier Publications reporter Susan Mustapich can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at smustapich@villagesoup.com.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Paul Smith | May 11, 2017 09:14

What will happen to the old parts of the steeple..the wood?  I realize much of it is in poor/abysmal condition, but there are likely local artists (including me) that would like some of this wood to incorporate into mixed media pieces.  ??? Thanks for any info, Sarah Smith



Posted by: Mary A McKeever | May 10, 2017 17:59

Whatever the price it is worth it to preserve History of "the little town that could"!



If you wish to comment, please login.