PLAINFIELD, NJ — Repairs due to a disastrous 1930 fire at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church brought a new challenge over time that is being addressed as the church marks its 175th Anniversary.
As described by Rev. Lynn Santulli, a product called “cast stone” was used for exterior restoration in 1933, but it proved not able to withstand torrents of water rolling off the steeply-pitched church roof.
“The velocity was so fast and the gutters so small that they could not handle the volume of water,” she said.
Hence the netting and metal bands that eventually had to be anchored over the melting facade for safety.
“The building is solid, but the ‘icing’ is not doing so well,” she said.
Special funds donated by the congregation and the community are now being used for repairs as church leaders look into additional funding. A possible hitch with some funding sources is that workers would have to be paid “prevailing wages” to do the work, making it very costly.
The work will be guided by a comprehensive “preservation plan” prepared by Mills + Schnoering Architects, LLC, a firm that specializes in preservation and rehabilitation of historic structures.
Rev. Santulli said repairing the exterior is “the last big piece” of plans that have already led to the completion of a fully equipped kitchen and rental facility for events. The venue will be used on Nov. 16 to celebrate the 175th Anniversary with a 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. dinner created by Chef Kevin Cook, followed by a concert at 8 p.m. with the Tim Keyes Consort presenting “Symphony in C, The Earth Whispers."
The church will hold a “Special Service of Celebration” on Nov. 17, with a prelude at 10:15 a.m. followed by a Worship Service at 10:30, featuring current and past pastors.
Rev. Santulli said the first phase of exterior repairs began in September and will continue through November. Work will resume in spring on the Watchung Avenue side of the church.
Inside, the church is home to the 100-year-old Plainfield Symphony Orchestra, as well as numerous works of art and religious artifacts which Rev. Santulli said date back as far as the 9th, 11th and 14thcenturies. The church soup kitchen is open Tuesdays for lunch, and Rev. Santulli said this week it served 189 people, including a man who said it was the only hot meal he had all week.
Rev. Santulli called the church “an oasis of hope” in the community.
She said she wants “for this campus to be continued in a way that is a legacy for Plainfield.”
“It really does represent Plainfield. People want to be here to make connection,” she said, noting Chef Cook told her that in all his 45 years he never felt more appreciated.
“That’s what I want people to understand,” she said.
Congregants come to the church from five counties, she said, citing a native Plainfielder who now drives two hours and 20 minutes to attend.
Regarding the edifice, repairs to the exterior will continue “as we get money,” she said, adding, “The building is not going anywhere.”
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