Steeple Restoration

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HISTORY

THE PROBLEM

THE PLAN

HOW TO HELP

FAQ

The steeple of Park Street Church is a historic landmark and beacon in downtown Boston. The columns and windows of the steeple have suffered significant deterioration in the wake of recent harsh winters. While the steeple remains structurally sound, these decorative elements are in urgent need of repair. We are undertaking a major restoration and preservation project to return these elements to a sound and historically faithful condition, including repainting and relighting the steeple.

 


The Story of the Steeple

On February 27, 1809, Park Street Church was founded by 26 individuals who established the church’s charter. On May 1, 1809, the cornerstone was laid and work on the meetinghouse was completed by the end of the year. A ceremony of dedication was held on June 10, 1810.

The architect, Peter Banner, was inspired by St. Bride’s Church, on Fleet Street in London. St. Bride’s was designed by Christopher Wren. The steeple was said to be the inspiration for the first wedding cake! The church was gutted by fire bombs during the London Blitz in World War II and rebuilt with support from newspapers and journalists, for whom Fleet Street is known. Peter Banner’s other work in Boston included the India Wharf on Boston’s waterfront (now the site of Harbor Towers) and the Ebenezer Craft House in Roxbury.

The steeple has been an important part of Boston’s skyline since its origins. Ralph Huntington (1784-1866) was a leader in filling in the Back Bay and laying out the street design between Tremont and Boylston Streets. When Columbus Avenue was being laid out, he told the engineer to “Sight it exactly for the Park Street Steeple.”

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The Problem

Paint

The peeling paint is in need of scraping and replacement. We will safety remove the leaded paint and replace it with a stronger, longer-lasting paint to protect the wood-work.

Wood-work

The wooden columns are deteriorating due to rot and exposure. Some wood will require replacement.

Window Panes

The wood that holds the glass panes in place is in need of repair, it has worn away and left the panes at risk of falling.

Lighting

At night, the inadequate lighting is most visible, inefficiently and poorly illuminating our steeple.

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The Plan

The Park Street Church Finance and Administration (F&A) Committee and Board of Elders have approved the project, and the Church Administrator and Facilities Manager have executed the necessary contracts.

  • Erecting scaffolding, obtaining the necessary permits, conducting design reviews, safety considerations and shielding
  • Scraping and removing paint
  • Repairing cracks and holes, using materials that are historically appropriate and will endure compatibly with existing materials
  • Rebuilding the woodwork around the windows
  • Repainting all painted surfaces
  • Replacing the existing light fixtures with energy-efficient and long-life fixtures and related wiring
  • Repairing the clock faces (if funding is available)

The budget for the project is estimated to be around $1/2 million. Work has begun, and is expected to be complete in late fall, so that the deteriorated elements can be restored to robust condition before winter.

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How You Can Help

Pray!

Please pray for wisdom about the most responsible way to undertake this project. Pray that God will raise up the necessary resources to complete the work. Pray that the work will provide renewed opportunities to share Park Street’s testimony with the community. Pray that all who work on the project will be safe, and that conditions for its speedy completion will prevail.

Looking back into the history of Park Street and our church's impact on the city, pray that going forward, the presence of the church will continue to be a positive influence on the City. That our church will continue to love and care for the citizens of Boston for another 200 years.

Consider a Gift

Please consider supporting this project, as God leads you. It will be important to find resources for this project without detracting from our ongoing commitments to missions and operations. There are many different giving options or give in-person by marking your offering envelope using the “Capital Campaign” line. We hope to raise $500,000 from the congregation in support of the steeple. At the completion of the project, any unused funds will be used for other urgent needs. Consider a gift in honor of someone at Park Street Church who has blessed you or in memory or in honor of someone whose life has been touched by the ministry of Park Street Church.

 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is the steeple in danger of falling?

No, the steeple is quite sound structurally. When a gale in 1851 caused the steeple to sway, it was restored. The restorer said “There is more sound and skillfully put together timber there than in any steeple in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts”.

 

This is an expensive undertaking. What other efforts are being considered to help defray the cost?

Given the church’s historic significance as part of the city’s heritage, we are also seeking private foundation funding to support the work.

 

How did the deterioration get this bad?

The steeple is inspected from the ground and from inside on a regular basis. However, the damage was not detected until a trained professional stepped out to examine it. The severe winter weather that has occurred over the past several years may have exacerbated the problem. The steeple has not been painted for about 10 years, which is a relatively long time. There has not been a major restoration project undertaken in at least the last 40 years.

 

How will the work impact the use of the church?

While the scaffolding will be quite noticeable when it is erected, the use of the church will not be affected.

 

Will the work be historically faithful?

Yes. The church is part of the Park Street Historic District and part of the Freedom Trail. We work closely with the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission to assure that renovations to the exterior of the church, including the steeple, meet standards.

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