The historic First Presbyterian Church on Main Road in Southold has received a $3,500 grant from the New York Landmarks Conservancy, a private nonprofit that works to preserve state landmarks.
Jim Baker, chair of the church buildings and grounds committee, said the money will be used to plan for a restoration of its steeple.
“From a distance, it doesn’t look like there’s much of a problem, but close up there’s major deterioration that we need to work on now before it gets worse,” Mr. Baker said.
First Presbyterian was one of five Long Island churches to receive grants through the conservancy’s Sacred Sites Program, which has pledged more than 1,400 grants worth over $13.1 million to religious buildings statewide since 1986. First Congregational Church in Riverhead, St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Northport, Bethel AME Church in Setauket and United Methodist Church in Patchogue also received grants for building refurbishment.
Mr. Baker said he applied for the grant earlier this year. To preserve the building, he also rallied a group of community members to focus on the renovations, including the buildings and grounds committee, the church pastor and treasurer, local builders and farmers and Herb Adler, a past president of Southold Historical Society.
Program applicants are required to apply for two separate grants, Mr. Baker said. The first will pay for a renovation plan, he said, and the second, assuming it is approved, will pay for execution of those renovations. The conservancy was able to grant the money after receiving funding from the Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation.
Mr. Baker said contractors need to determine the cost of the planned modifications before they can apply for the second grant. He expects those numbers to be ready by Jan. 1, 2019.
“Luckily, we caught the structural damage before it’s too late,” Mr. Baker said. “Hopefully we’ll get a second grant and we’ll go ahead with that.”
Mr. Baker predicted that modifications will begin during the summer 2019.
The current church was built in 1803 and the steeple was added five years later. Before its construction, Mr. Baker said, Southold’s Presbyterian congregation used the property as a “community meeting hall.”
The north side of the church, facing Main Road, will be refurbished later next year, but Mr. Baker said that is not related to the grant.
“The architectural details need work from the ground up,” Mr. Baker said.
Photo caption: Jim Baker, chair of the church buildings and grounds committee for the First Presbyterian Church of Southold, accepts a grant check from president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy Peg Green and executive director of the Robert Davis Lion Gardiner Foundation Kathryn Curran. (Courtesy photo)