A 150-year-old Columbus church is getting a modern-day upgrade.
St. Paul”s Episcopal Church, at 318 College St., is undergoing a $950,000 renovation to the church”s interior, windows and heating and cooling system.
Lifelong St. Paul”s member and building committee member George Hazard said the church funded the work with donations raised during a 2009 capital campaign celebrating the building”s 150-year-anniversary. St. Paul”s was founded in 1837, but the main worship building has stood since 1859.
The Rev. James Carlyle, St. Paul”s 37th rector, says the work will help the church remain vital.
“The restoration and enhancement we”re now engaged in will enable our generation and generations to come to continue this spiritual legacy into the days and years to come,” he said.
There have been several additions to St. Paul”s through the years. A parish hall was built in 1899, then replaced in 1956. And St. Paul”s Episcopal School was added in 1997.
The church interior was repainted in 2003, and the organ and chamber were repaired in 2007 following a water leak. But parts of the building have received little recent attention.
For instance, some of the heating and cooling equipment stored in the cramped space under the church”s floor dated back to the 1940s.
“The nature of the space under the church made it very hard to get efficient air circulation. (The temperature) was hard to predict. Sometimes it was too hot or too cold. It could be very warm (in the church) for summer weddings,” said Hazard. “It was time to make things more reliable and predictable from an air circulation standpoint.”
Aesthetic features were suffering as well.
“The windows were 50 years old and taking a real beating in the Southern summers, especially on the building”s west side,” said Hazard.
With nearly $1 million raised from more than 150 donations by current and past members and friends of the church, St. Paul”s 400 members moved into the parish hall in November of last year to allow the work to begin. They plan to move back into the main building in May.
Improvements will include new heating and cooling systems, including ducts, reworked pews, repairs to the windows and a fresh paint job. The chancel, the section of the worship hall between the sanctuary and the nave, will be expanded 1 1/2 feet to give the choir more room.
The heating and cooling equipment will be placed in an outdoor equipment courtyard to free space under the church floor and the original stained-glass windows were sent to J. Wippell and Co., a specialist workshop in Lee, Mass., for repairs.
St. Paul”s hasn”t skipped a beat while awaiting completion of the work. An altar and chairs were set up in the parish hall to continue services, and a third Sunday service was even added.
But the timing of the work still raised a few eyebrows. With the economy in turmoil, Hazard says questions were raised about the prudence of spending nearly $1 million.
“That did come up but we were rolling. We needed to do it. No one could see further ups and downs, so we pushed on and we”re well along with the work here,” he said.
None of the church”s regular operating revenue was spent on the renovations.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.
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