Historic church needs expensive repairs

Updated: Jan. 9, 2020 at 12:47 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - It's a historic and iconic church in downtown Watertown with a clock tower that's a symbol of the city, but that church is in need of a number of expensive repairs.

When it rains, the people at First Baptist Church in downtown Watertown have to put buckets down around the church to catch leaks. The roof of the church is in disrepair.

"We've tried to get people to come and help us with the roofing but unfortunately a lot of the roofers they've been overwhelmed this summer with their own work and a lot of them, the building is so massive they're just not able to overtake such a work of this here," said Rev. Jeffrey Smith, senior pastor, First Baptist Church.

Fixing the roof is the church's priority, but it's just one of the repairs that are needed to the building built in 1891.

The stained glass windows need to be repaired or replaced, which could cost more than $130,000.

And then Smith says the stone building needs to be pointed as pebbles are being found on the sidewalk. A quote from 6 or 7 years ago estimated that would cost $150,000.

"We're trying to do all that we can to keep this iconic church up to it's something that's prideful for the city," he said. "The church is very old and we try to keep it as traditional as possible as we can, so with that it's a lot of maintenance on the church and throughout the years, especially with being up here in the north country with the weather. The building has taken a beating."

A lot of the repairs needed at the iconic church you can see, but it's what you don't hear that needs fixing too. The church bell hasn't rung on the hour in three years.

The bell still works if you pull it manually. But, the mechanism that attached it to the clock and made it ring each hour is in need of repair - something Smith says people who live near by are hoping for.

"They call me and they say, 'Pastor, turn the bell on because we're missing our programs. That's how we know to watch our programs because when the bell strikes, we know 1 o'clock, 2 o'clock and 3 o'clock,'" said Smith.

Knowlton Technologies used to do the maintenance on the clock and bell. But the company says for safety reasons, they no longer want their workers climbing the bell tower. The church is now trying to find somebody with the expertise to do the maintenance.

Knowlton Technologies tells us they're willing to help find another way to get it fixed and help pay for it.

The church needs to find a way to make all these repairs, which Smith says is tough because it's a community church with a lot of church goers with a fixed income, low income or no income. The church has tried for grants in the past but has been unsuccessful.

Smith says the repairs, especially the ones to the roof, need to get done somehow.

“It’s not something that we cannot do, because all it’s going to do is get worse and it’s going to make things, especially on the roof or lower roof, a lot worse if we don’t get it repaired so we are going to get it repaired one way or another. We are a people of faith and we believe that God is going to provide,” said Smith.

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