© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Steeple On Historic Church Being Repaired


Repairs are being made to the steeple of the Old First Church in Springfield, Massachusetts. It is part of an ongoing effort to restore one of the oldest church buildings in New England.

A crane was moved into position Wednesday and a fence erected to keep pedestrians away while the final work is done on the exterior of the steeple to repair damage caused by the 2011 tornado. Mayor Domenic Sarno said Old First Church is a significant part of Springfield’s history and the restoration will ensure it figures in the city’s future.

"People have come here to mourn, to celebrate, to pray and to speak about issues, so this is important to keep it going."

The white wood framed church in Court Square in the heart of the city’s downtown was built in 1819. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.  The statesman Daniel Webster and the abolitionist John Brown spoke there.  It was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

The repairs to the steeple will cost just under $100,000. FEMA is paying half the cost, and the city is picking up the rest.

Patrick Sullivan, the city’s director of buildings management, said the old church is in overall good condition.  Additional restorations are planned to the heating and cooling system, and the building must be made handicap accessible. 

" There is great mixed use ( potential) for  the property, we just need to make an investment in it."

The old church has been used only sporadically since the city purchased it for $900,000 seven years ago after the congregation, faced with dwindling membership and rising costs, voted to disband.

Sarno, who was not mayor at the time the city bought the building, said it was the right decision.

" I favor historic preservation if the money is there."

The neighborhood around the Old First Church could soon undergo a dramatic transformation. MGM is planning to build an $800 million resort casino just a block away.

"MGM is very anxious to incorporate it in their plans," said Sarno.

The casino project will go forward if voters next week defeat Question 3 on the state ballot and keep in place the state’s casino law.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
Related Content