First Universalist Church of Southold rebuild ahead of schedule

First Universalist Church of Southold on Main Road, long known as the “church on the bend,” is being reborn.

Built in 1837, when the North Fork was a very different sort of place, the building was destroyed in March 2015 by a catastrophic fire that was battled by more than 150 first responders. When the blaze was finally extinguished, the historic church was gone.

But it was not forgotten. After an eight-year effort, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the site on July 22. In the following month, crews from the Southold-based North Fork Woodworks began the reconstruction.

This week, anyone driving by the new “church on the bend” can see a nearly completed exterior. In just four months, NFWW’s crews have made impressive progress.

“At the end of November, we figured we were a month ahead of schedule,” said Mark Sisson, president of the church board. 

He said he is very happy with the work done so far to bring back a structure that was iconic on the spot it has long occupied, beginning when the east-west road in front of it was little more than a cart path.

“We are now maybe six weeks ahead of schedule,” Mr. Sisson said. “The congregation is anxious to get into the building. Our hope is a completed church by the end of the summer of ’24. North Fork Woodworks has been just delightful.”

The church has approximately 40 members, around 25 of whom are active.

Scott Edgett, co-owner of NFWW, hailed a talented work crew for the progress so far. “We wanted to get as much infrastructure done before winter came,” he said. “After those eight years, we knew the congregation wants to get the doors open as soon as possible.

“We originally thought this would be a 14- month process,” he added. “Now we are hoping this will be less than a year. It’s unbelievable what you can get done, and what our team can do. We are a well-oiled machine.”