As specialists from Seaboard Weatherproofing and Restoration Company work beneath the rafters of Brooklyn's New Utrecht Reformed Church, they recognize the importance of their role in helping bring the landmark church exterior structure back to its former glory. The church is one of three religious landmarks - the others are the Eldridge Street Synagogue on Manhattan's Lower East Side and Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, New York -- to be painstakingly restored by Seaboard.
"Our work on historic houses of worship is particularly fulfilling because each building has its own unique story to tell," says Michael Y. Ahearn, President of Seaboard Weatherproofing and Restoration. "For example, the ornate and imposing Eldridge Street Synagogue was the first grand house of worship built in New York by Eastern European Jews."
Seaboard's work on the New Utrecht Reformed Church is concentrated under the rafters, where workers have shored up the roof supports in preparation for installing a new shingle roof, a project to be completed by February 2007. The Seaboard team took particular care in protecting the church's delicate barrel-shaped ceiling from damage. Vibrations and load shifting during removal of the old roof and installation of the new roof potentially could have damaged the original plaster ceiling without proper bracing and extreme care being taken. The stone and wood Gothic Revival building, built in 1828, was one of the first landmarks named by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is being repaired and restored as part of a $2 million campaign.
The Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, an 1860 landmark, boasts a rich history. It was founded by abolitionists, served as a stop on the "Underground Railroad", and was the location of the first drafting of the Emancipation Proclamation. Seaboard has erected scaffolding in preparation for the first phase of the project - restoration of the exterior of the East Tower. Seaboard expects the façade restoration to take approximately one year.
"We are shipping Saint Bee sandstone from England to Canada where it will be carved to exact dimensions and then sent to Brooklyn," says Jay Fiebich, Seaboard General Manager. "Because the building is a landmark, we are required to preserve and repair as many existing stones as possible and replace as few stones as necessary."
"The church is in the process of fundraising to support the renovation," explains Ahearn. "With the erection of the scaffolding, congregants can see that their dreams of a restored church are becoming a reality." Seaboard negotiated special payment terms with the Lafayette Church to allow work to continue during the fundraising campaign.