ROXBURY, NJ - The long-sought restoration of the iconic, but decaying steeple atop the First Presbyterian Church of Succasunna is underway.
Using a massive hydraulic boom lift, workers from Main Street Custom Homes and Remodeling of Succasunna, got a close-up look today at the 165-year-old structure. The company, headquartered a few doors away, is volunteering the project management for the restoration, said Dan Dyrness, the company's site supervisor and lead designer.
Dyrness, watching from below as carpenters Randy Walther and Randy Heverly came face-to-face with the old tower about 80 feet above, said the church received estimates of up to $167,000 for the project. The last time the steeple was painted appears to be about 50 years ago, he said.
"We're probably going to be able to do it for about $36,000 with us donating our time and the people who work for us jumping in and helping out," he said. Carolina Blue Painting of Flanders has been hired to do the painting once structural repairs are finished, Dyrness said.
Blocked by the Court
The church was on track to get a Morris County Historic Preservation Grant for the project but a recent decision by the state Supreme Court - banning public funds from religious building work - blocked the idea. It forced the church to rely on donations because - one way or another - the steeple needs attention.
"We need to do something sooner rather than later to prevent further damage to the steeple as well as stop and prevent future water leaks into the sanctuary," said a church "steeple committee" in a June letter to church friends and family.
For Dyrness and his son, Don, restoration of the structure has some personal meaning. "Our families have been members of the church for many years," said Don, the company's president. "My mother was born into the church. So in my family we have ... three active, living generations of people in the church."
It was a similar connection to the town that prompted the Dyrnesses to last year restore and move the gazebo at the nearby Roxbury Public Library.
The Dyrnesses said the $167,000 estimate was based on erecting scaffolding to do the work. Renting the 135-foot articulating boom lift will allow similar access at a substantial savings, they said. Both noted that the last person to work on the steeple supposedly did it while hanging from ropes attached to the spire.
Coming down from their up-close inspection, Walther and Heverly said their first task will be insect control. They said they were greeted by a good number of bees living in the tower.
Prior to today's inspection by Walther and Heverly, the closest view of the steeple's condition came from the use of a drone:
Dan Dyrness said the belfry houses a massive bell, its rope still attached. However, noise complaints from some neighbors preclude the church from using the bell as it did in days gone by.