Former Bath church kicks off renovation fundraising campaign

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BATH — The sky didn’t necessarily fall at the Winter Street Center on Aug. 12, 2015, but it may have felt that way when part of the ceiling collapsed.

A severe storm had caused a large piece of the vaulted ceiling in the santuary of the circa-1843 building to fall. But a multi-phased renovation project – the first stage of which is to run from this month to May – is geared toward stabilizing the space in order to for community to continue to enjoy it for many years to come.

Sagadahoc Preservation, formed in 1971 to save and preserve what was then known as the Winter Street Church, announced the $100,000, first-phase project in a fundraising campaign announcement last week. Bath Savings kicked off the drive with a $10,000 donation, according to a March 3 Sagadahoc Preservation press release.

“I would love to have (the entire project) completed by 2021,” the 50th anniversary of Sagadahoc Preservation, Lorena Coffin, executive director, said in an interview Tuesday. “Ideally, that would just be amazing.”

The first phase includes removing debris from the ceiling collapse and cleaning  the sanctuary. Experts will study portions of the plastic ceiling to determine prior stencil work and painting, the press release stated.

Wooden timber scaffolding to reach the remaining ceiling – 27 feet at its loftiest point – will be erected during that phase, and remain for the restoration work planned for the second phase. Sagadahoc Preservation expects restoration to encompass three or four phases, according to Coffin.

Although the roof and steeple of the structure have been replaced, the former sanctuary still needs significant work, including ceiling replacement. It has not been used for public events since 2005, Coffin said.

According to Sagadahoc Preservation, Anthony Coombs Raymond – a master builder in Brunswick – designed and built the church in 1843. He blended his Gothic Revival design with classical, Greek Revival motifs, and the result is listed today on the National Register of Historic Places.

Architect John Calvin Stevens crafted interior alterations in 1890 and 1913, and Bath native Francis Fassett created the Italianate-style parish hall in 1864. Now known as the Diane C. Francis Room, to honor one of Winter Street’s major longtime benefactors, the restored hall has been rented for parties, meetings and other events.

Merging the Winter Street and Central church congregations led to a new church being constructed on Congress Avenue, placing the former church structures in danger of being demolished or sold. Two years after Sagadahoc Preservation formed, the building was transferred the Bath Marine Museum.

Sagadahoc Preservation also saved Central Church, known today as the Chocolate Church Arts Center.

The marine museum, which used the Winter Street building for lectures and exhibits, became the Maine Maritime Museum, and ultimately consolidated the four sites at the former Percy & Small shipyard, transferring the old church back to Sagadahoc Preservation.

Log onto sagadahocpreservation.org or call 443-2174 for more information or to donate.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

With collapse last year of much of its ceiling, the sanctuary of the Winter Street Center in Bath, formerly a church, will begin cleanup and renovation this month.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.