Oldest Methodist Church in Bellows Falls, Vermont, WILL BE DEMOLISHED IN DECEMBER 2021!

“Demolition set for former YMCA building in Bellows Falls

BELLOWS FALLS — The former Meeting Waters YMCA building at 66 Atkinson Street, one of the oldest church buildings in the area, will be coming down.

The Rockingham Select Board, meeting in joint session with the Bellows Falls Village Trustees, voted Wednesday night to end a three-year battle over the dilapidated building and voted to accept a bid of $58,693 to demolish the 1835 former Methodist church.

The vote by the Rockingham Select Board was unanimous, according to Municipal Manager Scott Pickup.

The Bellows Falls Village Trustees voted unanimously not to participate financially in the demolition, according to Village President Deborah Wright. She said the building is currently owned by the town, and is being demolished under the town’s nuisance ordinance. The village had originally been slated to contribute $25,000 toward the demolition.

The village spent about $17,000 on legal fees, engineering reports and fencing, trying to force owner Christopher Glennon to do something about the building, she said.

Pickup said the town received four bids, with the one from Hodgkins & Sons the lowest at $58,693. The highest bid was close to $100,000.

Pickup said demolition would begin Nov. 1, and he expects the building will come down quickly, in a matter of days.

The vote by the select board will allow the salvaging of some historic components of the old church, including the one remaining stained glass window.

Select Board member Elijah Zimmer, who is also a member of the town historic commission, is working to save the window, which features The Good Shepherd with some lambs.

Pickup said the town’s historic commission will document the building as well.

The old church most recently was owned by Christopher Glennon of Bellows Falls, who bought the dilapidated building for $1 in 2017 from Meeting Waters YMCA, which had moved out of the building a few years earlier. Meeting Waters owned the building for 44 years, but had allowed it to deteriorate. It moved out in 2014.

Glennon had plans to turn the building into a community arts center, but despite numerous promises to the Bellows Falls Village Trustees that he would fix various problems, there was never any substantial repair to the large structure, which sits at the corner of Atkinson and School Street Extension.

The trustees, anxious about falling slate shingles from the roof hitting nearby schoolchildren, or even collapsing into the street, erected barriers around the building two years ago.

Pickup said Thursday he and others, including Bellows Falls Police Chief David Bemis and Rockingham Zoning Administrator Chuck Wise, had been negotiating privately with Glennon to resolve the issue. Glennon hasn’t paid taxes on the building, and it was continuing to deteriorate.

Pickup said that Glennon finally agreed to transfer ownership of the old church to the town this summer, clearing the way for its demolition. Several historic preservation groups have expressed interest in the old church, but none have come forward with a plan.

Before Meeting Waters, the building was owned by Fall Mountain Grange.

Pickup said that the town’s Historic Preservation Commission would document the building and oversee the removal, if possible, of some of the historic aspects of the building that were salvageable. The commission had earlier passed a resolution urging the board to allow the building to be documented, and certain items, such as the one remaining stained glass window featuring Jesus, to be preserved.

Whether the window can be preserved is unknown, Pickup said, noting it wasn’t clear there was a solid framework around the window. Zimmer had said earlier the window could be repaired.

Old-growth timbers, and the church’s former bell tower or cupola, are also on the list of materials that they hope can be salvaged, he said.

Peter Golec, chairman of the Rockingham Select Board, said the town would “find the money” to pay for the building’s demolition. There is about $40,000 in the town’s unsafe building fund. He said whether salvaging the items from the old YMCA would drive up the cost was unknown.

As for the future use of the lot, Pickup said that would have to be determined later. He said the lot, which he said is quite small, is immediately adjacent to the Central Elementary School playground, and the school has expressed interest in the land.

Because the lot is in such a prominent spot at the head of School Street, care needs to be taken for its future use, Pickup said. Other potential uses mentioned included affordable housing and a parking lot, he said.”-https://www.reformer.com/local-news/demolition-set-for-former-ymca-building-in-bellows-falls/article_7f7e721a-2215-11ec-93af-0797510a69b6.html

“Joint Board discusses the demoliton of 66 Atkinson Street building

BY BETSY THURSTON, The Shopper October 13, 2021

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Wednesday, Sept. 29, the Bellows Falls Trustees and Rockingham Selectboard in a Joint Board meeting discussed demolition of 66 Atkinson St.

Built in 1835 as the Methodist Church and locally known as the YMCA, the building was recently pursued by Northern Heritage Mills. At the end of September, Municipal Manager Scott Pickup was told they did not have the funds.

On June 29, the Joint Board had discussed demolition by the fall unless the building was sold. Pickup said they received four bids for demolition, and Hodgkins and Sons of Walpole, N.H., offered the lowest at $58,693. He said based on previous conversations with the board, the timing was good and encouraged demolition before snowfall.

Rockingham Historic Preservation Commission added a resolution to the meeting agenda to allow access inside the building for documentation purposes and to “save the stained glass windows, the tower, and century-old beams if practical.” The resolution requested deconstruction rather than demolition for salvageable elements of the building for historic preservation.

Selectboard Chair Peter Golec asked if the town was the owner and liable for the property. Pickup asserted that Chris Glennon had signed the deed over to the town of Rockingham.

Golec was concerned about allowing people inside, referring to the last engineer’s report.

Trustee James McAuliffe said if the RHPC signed personal releases, “I would be willing to let them [inside the building] for a limited time, as long as we were not potentially liable.”

Selectboard and RHPC member Elijah Zimmer said, “I think this is a significant loss to the community…[it’s] incredibly unfortunate.”

He suggested documentation and by saving “whatever elements are deemed practical.” The Preservation Commission was especially interested in the stained glass window on the front facade and the steeple, of which Zimmer said, “[It] has been an important landmark in town.”

He also explained the significance of preserving elements and that “the building is documented properly.”

Golec wondered about project delay and increased costs. Pickup said they would discuss with the contractor, and if the price changed, they would come back to the board.

McAuliffe said, “This proposal of salvaging beams is not conceivable,” and explained that the bid for demolition would be to crush the building.

Zimmer said it would be a matter of working with the contractor to save “what is practical” and encourage keeping the historic material out of the landfill.

Cowan asked if the RHPC had funding; Zimmer said that had not been discussed.

Selectboard Susan Hammond remarked that the bid only included crushing and disposal costs, but she suggested they add the resolution. “We need to make the best effort to salvage what can be salvaged as a condition of awarding the bid.” She said the manager could work with the contractor based upon recommendations.

Golec determined that two decisions needed to be made: the town accepting the bid and the Village Trustees voting to appropriate up to $40,000 from the unsafe building fund.

McAuliffe said, “As a Trustee, I am in favor of demolishing the building,” but he did not agree the village should share the costs with the town.

Golec said the action began with the Trustees voting it as an unsafe building and said, “I think it’s fair that the village should contribute.”

Trustee Stefan Golec said, “I see the historical value… I would think the village would like some say.” He asked if the RHPC would be prepared to act immediately.

Village President Deborah Wright said after two years, the village had spent $20,000 on court fees and fence rentals and now the building was town owned. She made a motion for the village to contribute zero dollars for demolition.

Jeff Dunbar said he wished the bid had included the resolution, noting this was a lesson for the town and village on waiting to act on decaying buildings.

The Trustees voted unanimously to appropriate zero funds.

The Selectboard voted unanimously to approve the bid of $58,693 for Hodgkins and Sons to demolish 66 Atkinson Street. The resolution was accepted.

The manager will work with the contractor and RHPC to identify significant historical elements, and RHPC would sign waivers of liability prior to entering the building. Decisions on salvage and any increased costs would be discussed at the next Selectboard meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 19.

The Joint Board generally meets on the fifth Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera. The Saxtons River Trustees expressed interest in joining their Nov. 30 meeting.”-https://vermontjournal.com/featured-articles/joint-board-discusses-the-demoliton-of-66-atkinson-street-building/?fr=operanews

Locally known as the “YMCA” and built in 1836, this is the oldest Methodist church in Bellows Falls, Vermont.

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