Save The Historic Troy Union Church
The square steeple on the Troy Union Church has a definite list these days; and while church services still take place regularly, the bell is no longer heard Sunday mornings. One of the two huge, hand-hewn 171-year old trusses that supports the steeple (and the bell) has rotted, and according to a historic structures restorer, must be stabilized soon to halt leaning. Despite numerous angle braces, struts, and fixes (both original and added later), this truss is now in serious structural failure.
Over time, water leakage from the belfry caused damage to the truss's primary parts, which weakened the structure. The belfry tower sags due to the extreme downward bending of a particular beam that is part of the truss, according to Arron Sturgis of Preservation Timber Framing, Inc. in Berwick.Norma Rossel, a church member who lives just down the hill from the church, took on the task of getting a grant to help pay for the repair. Through the Maine Steeples Project, collaboration between Maine Preservation and the Maine Community Foundation, she got a grant to pay 90 percent of the cost for an assessment of the structural condition of the building. The stabilization work is expected to be done by the end of April, with funds the church has already raised, Rossel said.
The church's small congregation, with the help of the community, will need to raise as much as $40,000 to meet the requirements of a competitive matching grant to actually restore the belfry tower and its support system, said Rossel. Future fund raising will enable restoration to remove the hanging ceiling installed in 1954 as well as the remains of an earlier bead board ceiling and the original plaster ceiling.
Nevertheless, she has high hopes of eventually restoring the church to its original design, with the choir loft in the rear of the spacious sanctuary. She is currently in the process of applying for National Register Historic Building status for the church, a requirement for the restoration grant. According to the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, Troy Union Church is eligible for the National Register.
The church, built in 1840 next to the hilly road between Bangor and Unity, now routes 202 and 9, has always been a nondenominational Christian church, and served the community continuously until 1947 when the membership was too small and it closed.
In the seven years before energetic Seven Star Grange members repaired and re-opened it again, the lack of maintenance may have contributed to water damage, which has continued off and on through the years. Troy has never had a center, unlike villages in more level and dry terrain. The other church in town, Beech Hill Church, has been closed for many years, and is used by the owner for storage. The only other centrally- located public building used before the corner schools were abandoned and the Troy Central School was built in 1955, was the Grange Hall.
An older church member says that apart from the church, the only time he remembers meeting people from other parts of town was when the eighth-grade graduation took place at the Grange. Troy Union Church membership is almost as small now as it was in 1947, so members have to be active and determined to keep it alive.
"It's more than a building for weddings and funerals. The church has, over the years, helped keep the community together," said Rossel, who has put many hours on research and fundraising. "How do you know the people in your town unless you have a place to meet? It's part of our culture and history."
For more information contact Norma Rossel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
To help with the restoration, send donations to Gail Piper, Treasurer, Troy Union Church, 230 Bangor Road, Troy ME 04987.