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Steeple restoration project underway at Pine Grove Community Church in Watson

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WATSON — A 2½-year fundraising effort has culminated in a $14,000 steeple renovation project at the historic community church here.

“We’ve had wonderful response from the people,” said Vicki A. Roy, president of the Pine Grove Community Church Preservation Society.

Mrs. Roy said funding for the project came from three $1,000 memorial donations, as well as various smaller gifts and proceeds from fundraisers held over the past couple of years.

Workers from Schroy Builders, Watertown, recently began work on the project by removing the old steeple, exposing the deteriorating wood frame of the belfry.

“That was awfully rotten,” Mrs. Roy said. “It’s a wonder it could hold the bell.”

Restoration work at the church, at Pine Grove and Austin roads in the town of Watson, is expected to take another few weeks to complete, she said.

While Schroy Builders submitted a low bid of $12,365 for the project, other unforeseen expenses likely will push the final cost to about $14,000, the amount raised and budgeted for that purpose, Mrs. Roy said.

Once the steeple restoration is complete, society members plan to focus on other needed upgrades to the 118-year-old structure, including deteriorating concrete on the front steps and basement wall, she said.

The structure also still lacks running water or bathroom facilities, Mrs. Roy said.

The group’s next fundraiser will be the second annual Music Fest, set for June 14, at the church. Doors will open at noon, with music starting at 12:30 p.m.

Music will be provided by the Turning Point barbershop chorus, country/classic rock/folk trio CAPO 3 and the country/bluegrass group Neighborhood Rednecks.

Additional musicians are encouraged to bring their instruments and join in.

Hamburgers and hot dogs will be available for purchase, and a 50-50 raffle will be held.

Mrs. Roy said last year’s inaugural event went well, and organizers are expecting another successful festival this year.

“Everybody seemed to have a really fun time,” she said.

The original members of the former Union Church, built in 1896, were Methodists, Presbyterians and Baptists. The church’s construction was completed by local carpenter Lucian Rumble, with shop work by Frank Tisse.

Instead of pews, the church has straight-backed chairs drilled into the slanted floor that rises from the altar to a loft in the back. Below the loft, a corridor separates the sloping floor, leading guests to the altar space.

Above, a barrel-vaulted ceiling merges seamlessly with the walls. The church is believed to be one of only two like it in the world, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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