Spire Straits – Seeley’s Bay United Church Restoration

Seeley’s Bay United Church needs funds to continue with the restoration of this local landmark.
Anyone wishing to donate to the building restoration fund can send a cheque payable to: Seeleys Bay United Church, Seeleys Bay K0H 2N0. Tax receipts will be issued.

united church seeleys bay restoration fundraising

It took three years of searching and planning to arrange to have the steeple and upper tower detached from Seeleys Bay United Church.
The removal took only three minutes.
The steeple and adjoining upper tower were lifted from the 133-year-old church last week and now sit next to the building, awaiting some much-needed repairs.
“(The steeple) developed a bad lean over many years and was starting to get worse,” said Art Shaw, a member of the church’s building restoration committee who is overseeing the project.
The floor of the upper tower was tilted downward, which in turn caused the steeple to tilt. The tilting, along with rotting frame posts, prevented the steeple and upper tower from being repaired in their original positions.
The steeple, which is 13.9 metres tall, is sitting next to the church where it will remain, uncovered, until the upper tower, which is 2.4 by 2.4 metres, is rebuilt.
That could take between five and 10 years, said Shaw, a construction project manager at Queen’s University until his retirement 14 years ago.
“When we get the money together,” said Shaw, who estimated the cost to remove the steeple at between $11,000 and $12,000.
Shaw said the price tag to hire an engineer and rebuild the upper tower, which will use steel frames instead of wood, likely would be in the $100,000 range.
“I picture a steel tower as more permanent and less subject to the decay that claimed the first one,” he said. “We don’t want to change the appearance. We want a maintenance-free tower.”
Once the upper tower is rebuilt, the original steeple will be put back on it. The bell — weighing 363 kilograms with a diameter of 101 centimetres — in the upper tower was also removed and also sits, covered, next to the church.
The decision that the tower needed work was made in the fall of 2007, said Shaw.
“It was so precarious looking,” he said.
Little did Shaw know at the time that it would take two years to find an engineer to plan the work.
“This building gives an engineer nightmares because of the rotten spots,” said Shaw, who calls himself a fan of heritage architecture.
“Three engineers ignored me until I went away. They never explained why; I’m guessing it’s because (the structure) was so unpredictable.
“It was frustrating at times in that it took so long. It seemed like we were getting nowhere the first two years.”
Finally, Bruce Easterbrook, an engineer from Athens, signed on early in 2010.
“He was brave enough to take on the project,” said Shaw.
Work began in early November with the drilling of holes to insert cables for lifting. Workers from the Le Blancq Design Group showed up at 8 a.m. Thursday and began lifting around 3:30 p.m.
“Getting it rigged took all morning,” said Shaw. “They had to saw all around the roof to get it free.”
Lifting the steeple, he said, took three minutes.
The workers are patching the roof above the lower tower, a task that Shaw said should be completed by the end of today.
Once the church’s building restoration committee has a better idea of the engineering and construction costs for the steeple and upper tower, it will begin to organize a series of fundraising events.
The committee is also considering a rebuild of the front entrance as part of a makeover to make areas of the building more accessible for the handicapped.
“We have to get busy and look at fundraising,” said Barb Donaldson, a member of the church’s building restoration committee.
Anyone wishing to donate to the building restoration fund can send a cheque payable to: Seeleys Bay United Church, Seeleys Bay K0H 2N0. Tax receipts will be issued.