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First Presbyterian Church in Southold to renovate its steeple

The First Presbyterian Church in Southold will renovate the church’s steeple next year, although a formal start date has not been set for the project.

The steeple will have a complete structural renovation of its interior and the exterior architectural details and finishes. It began after a routine inspection of the tower revealed the need for the renovation.

“Basically, there’s interior damage from insects and animals like raccoons and squirrels,” said James Baker, an elder of the historic church. He said on the exterior they need to fix rotten wood trim, cracked flashing and a sheet of thin lead which is used to prevent water penetration, among other work.

The church will also renovate the façade of the building. The repair of the steeple and restoration of the façade of the church is estimated to cost $200,000 according to Mr.Baker. 

The church received $3,500 from the nonprofit Sacred Sites Consulting Grant, which is available for the renovations of historic buildings and is part of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, and $30,000 from the Sacred Sites Challenge Grant towards repair costs. 

The two grants and donations from the community will help complete the project, Mr. Baker said.

“This is this church’s first capital program which is pretty significant,” Mr. Baker said. “I mean in the past, we sort of save money, save money, save money and then did the job. So, this is kind of new for us.”

The church has organized and hosted various fundraisers towards the project, which have been met by great success from the community, according to Mr. Baker.

Currently, they have an on-going raffle ticket with cash prizes similar to Eastern Long Island Hospitals ‘Dream Green’ that is being hosted by the church. They also hosted a Steeple Chase BBQ in July at Greenport Harbor Brewery and Restaurant. On September 23, at Islands End Golf and Country Club, the church hosted a golf tournament and an auction.

The church has its roots in the founding of Southold by English settlers in 1640. The steeple was put up in 1808. Since then, there have been various renovations done to the steeple. A bell was added in the steeple in 1855, then the town clock in 1884. Other renovations have been made since then, but this is the first since the 1990’s, according to Mr. Baker. 

The steeple represents faith, stability and peace for many in the community, said the church’s pastor, Rev. Dr. Peter Kelley.

“Having just passed the 20-year anniversary of 9/11, I still remember that week and right up to that weekend people were just pulling into the driveway, people were coming into the sanctuary not just members but folks of the community who needed to pray,” Rev. Kelley said. “And I think the steeple, it underscored the meaning and the value that the sanctuary and steeple represent for folks.”