Heavy timbers delay steeple removal

By Stephanie Grinnell | Aug 26, 2019
Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell Belmont Boatworks owner Dan Miller, lower left, makes some calls Aug. 23 after interior inspection of Union Meetinghouse in Appleton revealed heavy supporting timbers that would have maxed out his crane's capacity.

Appleton — The long-awaited removal of the spire of Union Meeting House was delayed Friday, Aug. 23, after Belmont Boatworks owner Dan Miller and crew discovered it was heavier than expected.

Miller said there are six beams supporting the tower, all of which are made of oak. That, combined with a very large center column of chestnut, probably would have exceeded his crane's 3,000-pound capacity, he said.

Rather than begin the process of cutting the steeple and its supports from the roof of the historical society building, Miller said it would be best to consult with members before proceeding.

"There's a lot of options," he said.

Appleton Historical Society Corresponding Secretary Donovan Bowley arrived at the meeting house just before 10:30 a.m., after learning the removal would not happen as expected. No firm decision was immediately made as to the pending work on the building, though Bowley and Miller both indicated the repairs could be made without removing the structure. The exploration on Friday revealed that most of the interior, including a "crab" — the major support system for the steeple — are solid and in good condition, Bowley said.

The spire has stood atop the Appleton Union Meetinghouse since about 1886, Bowley previously told The Camden Herald. The Union Meetinghouse was built with lumber logged in Appleton and was brought to the mill and erected with the help of the townspeople in 1848. It served as an alternative to the Baptist church that had been built three years prior.

Membership dwindled over the decades as the town declined in prosperity and the building began to deteriorate. Its use became limited to occasional services and graduation functions.

The building was kept up by the Memorial Association, but in the 1970s it began to have severe structural problems and in 1974 the town briefly took ownership before transferring the building to the Appleton Historical Society.

The society has done a lot of restoration work over the intervening decades, but in recent years leaks in the roof have caused some damage in the balcony that for a short time was home to the town library.

The leaks have been fixed and the balcony ceiling restored, Bowley said, but when the building was recently painted, it was determined that the cladding of the steeple needed replacement. An engineering study in 2016 showed the need for some framing repairs, which have been done, but a full assessment of the work needed on the spire was thought to be too difficult while it remains on top of the building.

Because of the building’s inclusion on the National Historic Register, the spire removal had to be approved by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

Those interested in contributing to the renovations may contact the Appleton Union Meetinghouse Restoration Fund at brdaidan@aol.com.

(Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell)
Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Aug 26, 2019 16:37

History truly needs to be preserved and ;kudos to the townspeople to do this right.



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