News Column

New roof planned for church at Stone Mills Museum in LaFargeville

August 3, 2014

By Ted Booker, Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.

Aug. 03--LAFARGEVILLE -- The roof of the historic Union Church on the Stone Mills Museum grounds has been in urgent need of repair for years.

This year, the museum's executive board has pledged to restore the roof of the structure, which was built in 1837.

Fundraising for the $25,000 project began in earnest this weekend at the 45th annual Juried Arts and Craft Fair, the Northern New York Agricultural Historical Society's biggest fundraiser of the year. Proceeds from admissions go toward operational costs at the museum.

Fairgoers also could make donations toward the roof project, on which planners hope to start construction by the end of the month.

Maureen L. Bartlett, who was appointed president of the museum's executive board in July, on Saturday said replacing the church's dilapidated roof no longer could be delayed. The church, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977, last had its roof rebuilt in 1971.

"If we didn't do it this fall and go into the winter, the walls could cave in and destroy the building," the 67-year-old Mrs. Bartlett said. "Leaks have destroyed some of the beams under the shingles. It should have been done years ago but, because of lack of funding, it was put off. It's been in the works for over two years but didn't get moved on."

So far, the museum has about $11,000 saved to fund the project, Mrs. Bartlett said. It plans to hire a Watertown contractor, Kampnich Roofing, to complete the project.

"We intend to start the project this August and finish it by the end of November," she said.

The roof is just the first item on a list of repairs planned for the structure, Mrs. Bartlett said. The $100,000 capital campaign launched by the museum's board also calls for exterior masonry work, replacement of three windows and electrical upgrades. She said the board hopes to complete much of that work next year.

On Saturday, Black River resident Arthur W. Campbell III toured the old building with his 11-year-old son, Morgan D. He noticed that window frames were in poor condition and rotting.

"I think it's a worthwhile investment," he said of the roof project. "The church is part of the heritage in the area that my father was involved in."

His late father, Arthur W. Campbell Jr., actively was involved as a volunteer at the museum.

"His passion was restoring tractors here, and he liked to have his hands on everything," Mr. Campbell said. "My father had tractoritis."

Patricia J. Drake, a member of the fundraising committee for the capital campaign, said the church has served many different functions since it was built. It hosted services as a church until about 1910, when the Stone Mills Ladies Aid Society took over the building to serve as a venue for lunches. In the 1930s, it became a polling place for elections. In 1963, the polling site was relocated to Stone Mills Methodist Church. In 1967, the museum society bought the property from LaFargeville Central School District -- opening the facility to the public.

"In the early days, the church served as the museum and was open for visitors," said Mrs. Drake, a LaFargeville native who has volunteered here since she was 8.

The church is dedicated to the late Josephine E. Fredenburg, who founded the museum society and helped purchase the grounds in 1967.

Mrs. Fredenburg, who died in 2002, "felt it was important to start a museum because she wanted children to know how things were done in the 1800s," Mrs. Drake said.

Today, "anywhere from 400 to 700 fourth graders come here every June to learn how to make butter, pump water from wells and feed corn to chickens."

Mrs. Drake is hopeful the community will step up and raise the remaining funding needed for the roof project this fall.

"We have great people working on this fundraiser and I have no doubt that, by mid-September, we'll have doubled our $11,000."

People who wish to make a donation toward the roof project may call the museum at 658-2353. Donations by check, which should include "church project" in the memo line, may be mailed to the museum society at P.O. Box 108, LaFargeville, N.Y. 13656.


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Source: Watertown Daily Times (NY)

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