HARRISON — Parishioners temporarily forced out of their church following a Labor Day weekend fire last year may be worshiping in the historic church again by Easter.
“Our goal right now is to be worshiping there on Easter Sunday, March 31,” said Joanne Sullivan, administrative assistant to the Rev. Franklin Anderson of the United Parish of Harrison and North Bridgton.
The congregation has been displaced since fire broke out in the basement kitchen early on Sept. 1, 2012.
Town Manager Bud Finch said at the time that it was a combination of grit and luck that saved the 1871 structure at 77 Main St. from burning to the ground. The fire was discovered shortly after 6 a.m. when a woman who was opening the church for a community breakfast saw smoke billowing out. She immediately shut the door and called 911.
The congregation has been holding worship services at the Harrison Fire Station’s community room since September.
Although the fire was contained, the smoke damage was heavy throughout the building, even in rooms and closets with closed doors. The initial cleanup included removing all the ceiling tiles and insulation in the vestry, gutting the kitchen, and cleaning the ceiling area in the upstairs sanctuary. The pews were washed multiple times to remove soot along with the sanctuary’s stained glass windows and chandeliers.
The building was insured.
As the months went on, Sullivan said the sanctuary was painted, a carpenter did some framing and last week an electrician started work to rewire the building.
With the restoration has come the opportunity to make some changes in the building, Sullivan said.
“The kitchen committee has made decisions on new cabinets and a revised floor plan for better working conditions,” she said. In addition, the ladies parlor/Sunday School room will have a wall to divide instead of the old accordion door. There will be more outlets and new lighting in the vestry, which will also get thicker insulation.
“After the wiring and insulation are complete, then the wallboard people will put up the new walls,” Sullivan said. “One of the last things will be the flooring tile in the vestry and carpeting in the offices, the sanctuary, and the parlor/meeting room, and the new Sunday School room.”
The United Parish was formed when the Calvary Community Church of Harrison and the North Bridgton Congregational Church merged. In 2006 the North Bridgton church was sold to Bridgton Academy.