Old South Church recommended to receive $150,000 CPA grant from city to help defray costs of tower repairs

Old South Church has been recommended to receive a $150,000 Community Preservation Act grant from the city, which will pay a portion of the cost to make emergency repairs on its 246-foot tower.

“We have a 20-year building plan, and we’re always looking at the next project,” said Rev. Nancy S. Taylor, “but this was a surprise that wasn’t on the list.”

The church first learned that masonry in the tower was cracking last year, she said, during an inspection of the building mandated every five years due to its significant height. 

“The tower failed inspection so we knew we had to go up there anyway,” Rev. Taylor said. “We pulled some stones out and saw that steel infrastructure was rusting, which is literally pushing stones out and cracking them on three corners.”

To remedy the situation, the individual stones in the tower will be removed at the corners, she said, while the backs will be shaved off each stone. The steel will also be cleaned and resealed before the stones are put back in place.

Additionally, she said, slate now missing or broken on the roof of the tower will be repaired as part of the project.

While no bids have come in yet, it’s expected to cost a minimum of $1.6 million, Rev. Taylor said, so while the $150,000 CPA grant awarded to the church is much appreciated, it will only pay a fraction of the estimated cost of the project, which is expected to get underway this spring.

“It’s a great gift, but a small number compared to the [the projected cost],” Rev. Taylor said.

Still, Old South Church feels fortunate to have been chosen as one of the recipients in the highly competitive bid for the city’s CPA grants for fiscal ‘21.

“Boston has a lot of old buildings, and they cost a lot to maintain so it was really a painful process [determining which organizations ultimately receive the funding],” said Rev. Taylor, who watched on Zoom as the Community Preservation Committee mulled over applications before making their final recommendations for allocating the funds.

But even after the repairs on the tower are made, and barring any more unforeseen “surprises,” upkeep on the building will unquestionably continue to be a costly endeavor, albeit a necessary one for Old South Church.

“We steward this wonderful building for the city and it’s a big undertaking,” Rev. Taylor said. “We host a lot community events and have a lot of organizations that we sponsor and host in our building. It’s more than a church – it’s a hive of activity.”

To learn more about Old South Church, visit oldsouth.org.

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