Durham will form a maintenance committee for the historic church

Durham’s Union Church was built in 1835 and added to the National Historic Register in 2001. Submitted photo

DURHAM – The board agreed to form a committee focused on sustaining the historic Union Church at its bi-weekly meeting on Tuesday.

“I don’t see this as anything like the Historic District Commission or the Conservation Commission,” said board chair Kevin Nadeau. “I see this as a group of interested citizens who can maybe take the initiative (by recommending maintenance projects), ideally, if we have someone who has experience in historic construction work or grant writing. “

The top of the left rear sill beam at Union Church in Durham is rotten and in need of repair. Submitted photo

Executive Director Kathy Tombarelli said several people contacted her for information about the committee and at least two or three people told her they wanted to become members.

The Union Church, located at 744 Royalsborough Road, was built in 1835 and added to the United States National Register of Historic Places in 2001. The building was used as Durham Town Hall from 1924 to 1986, after which it became the home of the Durham Historical Society. It still belongs to the municipality.

In a conversation on Friday, Durham Historic Society president Tia Wilson said the building currently stores artifacts and historical documents from the city and is in dire need of repair.

The sill beam in the rear left exterior corner of the church is rotten and long-standing water damage near the fireplace inside the church has caused the ceiling to sag. Although the foundation was repaired two years ago, foundation cracks still need to be sealed to keep moisture out.

According to Nadeau, the board of directors had previously agreed to form a committee, but the committee was never formed. The previous discussion took place towards the end of the term of former city administrator Ruth Glaeser, he said.

The sill beam at the left rear of Union Church in Durham has a six inch deep hole. Submitted photo

“We need to include that in the planning (of the municipal building’s capital budget), the maintenance that this building will need over the next five to ten years,” Nadeau said. “Such an old building that is not heated is going to have problems. “

He later clarified that he provided funds for basic maintenance projects from the city budget, but larger projects would likely need to be funded through grants or fundraising.

Todd Beaulieu, a select board member, said he contacted a few contractors about repairing the damaged sill beam, which currently has a 6-inch-deep hole.

“(The threshold beam is) right in the corner where all the load-bearing weight is,” he said. “We have to do something.”

Nadeau asked how no one noticed the damage to the sill beams when the foundation for the back wall was repaired two years ago. Beaulieu replied that he believed he was not as badly damaged at the time.

Durham’s Union Church is the seat of the city’s historic society. President Tia Wilson said there were thousands of artifacts and historical documents stored in the building. Submitted photo

Beaulieu said a contractor estimated that painting the church alone could cost $ 25,000. The presence of lead paint and the height of the building are two factors that drive up the price, he said.

Before the pandemic, the historical society offered presentations in Union Church and tours of the historic city.

“We have people who are passionate about historic preservation in this city and they’ve done some really cool stuff in the past,” Nadeau said.

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