Archive for Thursday, February 2, 2006

Toll for belfry chimes

February 2, 2006

On Tuesday morning, a steeple and bell that had set atop the Ives United Methodist Church in west Baldwin for around 100 years was gone.

A crane was used to first lift the steeple, then the bell from the perch they'd share since at least 1909. While no one is sure, it's believed the steeple was there before that. The building was built in 1881.

Regardless, it's gone now and the church certainly looks different, especially for long-time Ives Chapel goers.

"Oh, my, yeah, it does look different," said Alice Gurley. "I've been going there since I was a kid. Never went anywhere else. My grandparents went there, my parents went there and my kids are there.

"There's a lot of history," said Gurley. "It's been there a long time."

But, the 100 years had taken a toll on the belfry. Wood had rotted and the problem was first recognized when there were puddles of water in the vestibule area of the church, said Pastor Pricilla Davies. The situation was investigated and the belfry area was found to be in unstable condition, she said.

"Someone went up there and said there was some damage," said Davies. "One of the people that went up there said he could just put his hand on it and it would move four inches. The wood was rotted."

A contractor was hired to remove the belfry and bell. That was completed Tuesday. But, it's unknown what else might need to be done. But, Davies knows that it's a blessing the steeple and bell didn't fall off in high winds.

"We don't know once that's off if there will be more damage," she said. "It would have been sad if it would have fallen on a car or a person or onto the church roof."

The belfry was hauled away and a replacement will be added. The bell was taken by Duane Hayes to be worked on.

"It'll be sand blasted and painted," said Hayes.

Davies said the process would be reversed during replacement, with the bell going back up and then the belfry built around it.

"It'll be a new steeple," she said. "Rather than shingles, it will be copper. The bell will be returned first."

How long the process will take is unknown.

"I don't know and I don't even know if we even have a completion date," said Davies.

While records or pictures don't show whether the belfry was there when the church was built, there is solid history on when the bell arrived in 1909.

"I don't know if the belfry was there before," said Davies. "I assume it was and that's why they wanted the bell. That's what I would think. It makes the story better. We do know the steeple was there in 1909. But, who knows if it was there before?"

According to church history supplied by Gurley, it was through the "untiring efforts of the following young men -- Herbert Van Kouron, Roy Rappart, Paul Girsch, Ira Butts and John Carpenter who were assisted by the ladies and other members of the Sunday school and by the giving of ice cream suppers and many other money-making projects the bell was purchased and hung."

Davies' theorizes that it was the boys of the church who wanted the bell. And, she told a story that was shared in church Sunday about other youngsters and the bell.

"They tied the clappers together so it wouldn't ring," she said.

The church was built in 1881 and was known as the Media Church, which is what the area was called. According to the Presbyterian archives in Philadelphia, the Media Presbyterian Church (now Ives Chapel) was organized in 1890 and dissolved in 1903.

The Ives history shows that "upon the invitation of Christian people of Media, the Rev. D.K. Burnham, a student at Baker University, began in 1903 to hold regular services in the building. The town of Media was incorporated into Baldwin and Captain Charles Purdy Ives purchased the building and deeded it to a chartered board of Methodist trustees.

"The church was called Ives Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church in honor of the donor who had given the building with furnishings and ground with the stipulation that it be used for a Methodist Church. The charter was filed with the Secretary of State Jan. 7, 1904, for a term of 99 years."

Although just as there is no known completion date for the new steeple, it is unknown what the total cost of the restoration will be. In addition to the steeple, a new air conditioner for the sanctuary will be added. But, it is known where the funds for the improvements are coming from.

"The money that it's costing is coming from Thomas the Tank," said Gurley. "Good old Thomas."

The church has charged for parking in the area around Midland Railway where the Thomas the Tank event is held each summer. Members of the church run the parking lot.

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