Durham’s Union Church was built in 1835 and added to the National Historic Register in 2001. Submitted Photo

DURHAM — The Select Board agreed to form a committee focused on maintaining the historic Union Church during its bi-weekly meeting Tuesday.

“I’m not seeing this as anything like the Historic District Commission or the Conservation Commission,” Select Board Chairman Kevin Nadeau said. “I’m seeing this as a group of interested citizens that can maybe take the lead (on recommending maintenance projects), ideally, if we have someone with experience in historic building work or grant writing.”

The top of the back left sill beam of Union Church in Durham is rotted and in need of repair. Submitted Photo

Town Manager Kathy Tombarelli said that several people have reached out to her for information about the committee and at least two or three people have told her they are interested in being members.

The Union Church, located at 744 Royalsborough Road, was built in 1835 and added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2001. The building was used as Durham’s town hall from 1924-1986, after which it became the home of the Durham Historical Society. It is still owned by the town.

In a conversation Friday, Durham Historic Society Chairwoman Tia Wilson said the building currently stores historic town artifacts and documents and is badly in need of repairs.

The sill beam in the back left exterior corner of the church is rotted and long-existing water damage near the chimney in the interior of the church has caused the ceiling to sag. Although the foundation was repaired two years ago, cracks in the foundation still need to be sealed to keep moisture out.

According to Nadeau, the board previously agreed to form a committee, however the committee was never formed. The previous discussion took place toward the end of former Town Administrator Ruth Glaeser’s term, he said.

The sill beam in the back left of Union Church in Durham has a hole six inches deep. Submitted Photo

“We need to include that in the (municipal building capital budget) planning, the maintenance that that building is going to need over the next five to 10 years,” Nadeau said. “A building that old that’s not heated is going to have issues.”

Later, he elaborated that he foresees funds for basic maintenance projects coming from the town budget, but large projects would likely need to be funded by grants or through fundraising.

Select Board member Todd Beaulieu said he has contacted a couple of contractors about repairing the damaged sill beam, which currently has a hole 6 inches deep.

“(The sill beam is) right in the corner where all the bearing weight is,” he said. “We have to do something.”

Nadeau questioned how no one had noticed the sill beam damage when the back wall foundation was repaired two years ago. Beaulieu responded that he believes it was not as badly damaged at that time.

Durham’s Union Church is the home of the town’s historical society. Chairwoman Tia Wilson said there are thousands of historical artifacts and documents stored in the building. Submitted Photo

Beaulieu said one contractor estimated that painting the church alone could cost $25,000. The presence of lead paint and the height of the building are two factors which drive up the price, he said.

Before the pandemic, the historical society was offering presentations in Union Church and historic town tours.

“We have some passionate historic preservation interest people in this town and they’ve done some really cool stuff in the past,” Nadeau said.

 


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