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Editorial: Teamwork Leads to Historic Preservation of Old Meeting House

As Phase 1A of the major restoration and preservation project for the Old Groton Meetinghouse draws to a close more than 50 local residents attended an Open House Oct. 22 to celebrate and to offer thanks to all involved. Some of the chief participants are pictured back row from left to right: David Gordon, Steve Burne, Bob Levesque, Lynne Spencer, Al Collins, Steve Lieman; front row from left to right: Jim Moisson, Michael Roberts, Allen King, and Don Torgersen. Photo by Nancy Ohringer

The Old Groton Meetinghouse preservation project Phase 1A is nearing completion. The project accomplished significant and in some cases urgent structural repairs to the 261-year-old Meetinghouse, now the oldest public structure in Groton. The project included renewal, repair, and replacement of critical building components in the attic and bell tower, and re-roofing the bell tower dome and deck with long-lasting copper.

The final steps will be installing new clock faces and shutters in the newly painted bell tower and removing the scaffolding. Sometime toward the end of November the repaired and re-gilded rooster weathervane (affectionately known as “Buddy”) will be reinstalled atop the spire.

A celebratory open house took place at the Meetinghouse Oct. 22. Those gathered saw historic building materials on display including portions of burnt timbers that had survived since the fire of 1795. Attendees were treated to a viewing of selections from the archives, all set out by Steve Burne, church historian.

Several people gave short talks with Steve Lieman as master of ceremonies. Steve teamed with the indispensable leadership of Al Collins (Phase 1A Project Manager) to coordinate and communicate project status to the town (Community Preservation Committee) and the state (Massachusetts Historical Commission) making sure that all administrative procedures were carefully followed and that the flow of communication was consistent and well-informed. 

Heartfelt thanks were expressed to the citizens of Groton who approved a $203,333 Community Preservation Act grant that funded approximately 60 percent of the total project cost. Thanks went out to the Groton Town Boards, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for its $50,000 grant and to the many private donors for their assistance in funding this vital work on the Meetinghouse.

Steve called upon Lynne Spencer, Preservation Architect at Spencer Vogt Group who led the architectural analysis, planning and oversight of the project. She was instrumental in identifying grant opportunities from the state and assisting in the preparation of grant writing materials.

Al Collins spoke as Project Manager sharing his views on why preservation of historic structures like the Meetinghouse is so important. In addition to his role working with Steve to coordinate the project, Al inspected the contractor’s work and advised the team concerning critical decisions. 

Bob Levesque of American Steeple, the master contractor based in Salem, spoke and shared his love of historic structures which began more than 40 years ago while working for his father. Bob and his men toiled with unusual professionalism and passion for historic buildings. The final speaker was Jim Moisson, who represented First Parish Church’s Buildings and Grounds Committee, whose members include Terri Ragot, Don Torgersen, Allen King, Rick Muehlke and Rick Sheridan. Jim stressed that historic structures take an extraordinary degree of care and expertise to maintain properly.

All speakers made note of the importance of collaboration in the effort to keep this historic building sound long into the future.  It takes the whole community working together to ensure the long-term preservation of historic structures like the Meetinghouse.

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