NORWAY — The Maine Steeples Project of the Maine Community Foundation has announced it will award a $3,500 assessment grant to the First Universalist Church of Norway, UU. The grant will be used to assess the condition of the church’s belfry, which has been leaking, and supporting timbers.

Ellen Gibson, who has been advising the church board on steps to take, wrote the application. A graduate of Preservation Leadership Training, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, she is a member of the Gingerbread House Task Force, a group working to move and rehabilitate the house, which is located across the street from the church.

Al Hodgson of Resurgence Engineering and Preservation in Portland will conduct the assessment. He will look at the condition of the structural timbers and ascertain the path of water entering the structure. His recommendations will direct phase two of the Steeples Project, which requires another grant application to the Maine Community Foundation for funds to do the work. Hodgson has also prepared reports for the Town of Norway on the condition of the Opera House.

The Universalist Church was the first church established in Norway and is the oldest continuously existing Universalist Church in Maine. Henry Rust, founder of Norway, donated the land to the Universalists in 1799. By 1828, the original church had become too small for the growing membership. It was sold to the Baptist Society for $8 each pew, and moved across the street.

Ezra F. Beal, a local architect and citizen of Norway, designed the new church. He also supervised the raising of the church on stilts in 1868 to construct the Concert Hall. Town meetings were held in the Concert Hall for many years. A kitchen was built in 1880. Today the Concert Hall still holds many community events, including free Wednesday lunches, and a chicken pie lunch during the Norway Arts Festival.

The Reverend Richard Beal is minister of the church and welcomes all comers. Summer church services will take place at 11 a.m. on the first three Sundays in July. Vespers will take place at 6 p.m. on Sundays in August.

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