Built in 1840, the Northwood Congregational Church served the community of Northwood Center satisfactorily for the first hundred years of its existence. By 1940 the congregation had dwindled and the church was sadly closed. It was used only sporadically for the next 48 years for an occasional wedding and the yearly Coe Brown Academy Baccalaureate services. A new congregation formed in 1988 and began the long process of bringing the building back from a state of neglect and disrepair. Many agree that the Northwood Congregational Church is one of the finest surviving examples of simplified Greek Revival church architecture in Northern New England but the building was in dire need of restoration.
A 2011 assessment of structural deficiencies detailed and called attention to urgent structural needs. The relatively small congregation raised $250,000 and received a $200,000 LCHIP grant to tackle the deteriorated structural elements and restore the exterior of the church. The key to the success of this project was bringing on board the extensive expertise of Arron Sturgis and Preservation Timber Framing. In 2015 and 2016, with the help of his able crew and trusted sub contractors, the bell tower was temporally supported, the four Doric columns removed from the portico and transported to his shop for repair and conservation.
After the archeological work was completed, the portico deck was entirely removed, a new foundation with proper drainage was installed and the original granite sill rocks repositioned. A white oak timber frame and planking system replaced the existing deck while massive timbers were installed inside the restored columns to transfer the bell tower weight to the new foundation. Inside the bell tower, girts, braces and bed timbers were replaced due to excessive rotting.
The King posts in the main trusses in the attic were restored from damage that occurred during a lightning strike. The sanctuary chancel was lifted to allow a new foundation and sills to be installed under the walls of the rectory.
The pilasters, decorative trim and flashings on the exterior of the bell tower were replaced as necessary.
The entire exterior of the church was then scraped, primed and painted and the crowning touch of the project was the duplication and replacement of the balustrade on top of the bell tower that had previously blown down in a windstorm. Before the project began a banner hung from the columns that read, “Don’t judge a church by its outside.” We now welcome not only your judging eyes as you pass by on Route 4, but we extend a genuinely warm welcome to any and all to step inside and worship with us.
The restoration project was recently received an award from the NH Preservation Alliance.
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