Soon, a new church will rise up in Southold

First Universalist Church of Southold, destroyed by fire in 2015, will soon be reborn.

The historic “church on the bend” on Main Road in Southold was built in 1837 and its loss in a fire devastated its members any so many others who loved its unique place as a landmark in Southold town history.

After eight years of effort, a groundbreaking ceremony for a new church will be held on the site at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 22.

“We are literally rising from the ashes,” said Susan Johnson, a member of the board of trustees. 

Mark Sisson, president of the board, described a long effort to pick an architect, raise the necessary funds and for members to agree on a design of a new church. Sharply rising building and material costs have sent the price tag of a roughly 4,000-square-foot building to approximately $3 million.

“Hard reality of costs whacked us on the head,” he said. “In eight years we’ve dealt with rising costs, a shrinking congregation, and what we ended up with was reducing the footprint.”

The design under a new architect incorporates a single building, Mr. Sisson said. A number of local agencies — from the Southold Planning Board, to the Historic Preservation Commission, the Suffolk County Health Department and the State Department of Transportation — had to sign off on all aspects of the plan.

“Now, finally, we are going to have our groundbreaking,” he said. “It will echo the old church and be a welcoming structure to people coming into Southold Town.”

The church has approximately 40 members, around 25 of whom are active. “We did a lot of things, including concerts, in the old church,” Mr. Sisson said. “Now we can do that and all sorts of things in the new sanctuary.”

Ceil Loucka has been a member for 30 years. She learned of the fire the day it happened.

“I could smell the smoke,” she said. “I knew it was burning. I live close to the church. Oh, yes, I was heartbroken.”

As for the new church finally going up, she answered with one word: “Amen.”