From the front page of the Picton Gazette Dated Friday, August 21, 1981

We are grateful to Jason Parks the Managing Editor of The Picton Gazette, in Picton Ontario for giving us permission to reproduce the material on this page. It is the sole property of The Picton Gazette and is used with permission

Rebuilding is giving Consecon church a new lease on life


Gazette Staff Writer

Come September, Consecon United Church will open its doors with a new lease on life.

The memory of a fire that nearly claimed the 15O-year-old structure on the morning of April 26 may yet remain, but the work of several months has built a new church, one to meet the needs of a modern congregation.

The blaze began in a furnace room behind the chancel shortly after 9 a.m. when a chimney pipe collapsed, touching off an explosion that tore through a children’s play area and blew out windows on the south wall.

Sunday services were to have been held just two hours later -- a quirk of timing that perhaps averted tragedy. Flames soon enveloped much of the altar area and spread to the rafters, leaping from the steeple near the entrance by the time firemen were on the scene.

“The fire was so close to taking the whole structure you could pull off the sheathing with your hand, "recalls building committee member Vic Alyea. “Some people were ‘saying five more minutes and it would have been gone"

At first the damage seemed beyond repair. Smoke and water had seeped through the ceiling, floor and furniture - an organ donated 20 years before had melted in the intense heat.

Upon closer examination, however, it was discovered the building, structurally sound, might still survive, though extensive renovation would be needed.

Work began in early June as charred lumber was removed and portions damaged by smoke sand-blasted to strip off discoloration and the ever-present smell. Pews and other fixtures were removed and similarly treated.

Despite the large-scale refurbishing, members of the congregation elected to preserve the church’s historic character while installing, at the same time, up-to-date wiring, lights, smoke detectors and alarms.

“We're trying to restore the church as much as possible to its original condition but add modern equipment,” says member Robin Adair. "The building has been completely rewired for 400-amp service. ”

Another feature, blending practicality and safety, is the addition of a forced air electric furnace situated at the opposite end of the building from the older model in a space once used as a coal bin.

"Committee members checked out numerous church buildings in the region before deciding to make the switch" said Mr. Alyea, and were particularly impressed with the heating system installed in Picton’s new Pentecostal Church on Highway 33.

Upstairs, to the rear of the balcony section, a room used mainly for storage in the past has been remodelled to serve as a nursery from which young children can watch the service and listen via piped-in sound.

To date, the work has cost close to $60,000 with another $40,000 expected to be spent before scheduled completion Sept. 15. Insurance on the structure covered only $80,000.

“That means we're probably looking at another mortgage though the response we’ve had from churches of all denominations has been tremendous,” says Mr. Alyea.

Both the Consecon Legion and Masonic Lodge have contributed to the reconstruction fund as have members of the congregation who has been accommodated in the next door meeting hall since the repair work has begun.

Others wishing to make a contribution may still do so, says Mr. Alyea, by making cheques out to the 'Consecon Church Building Fund’ in care of treasurer Pat Clark at RR 2, Consecon.

While a good deal of the work is now nearing completion, there were some tricky items to be worked out over the past couple of months. Warping of the floor due to heat and water required the installation of a reinforcing beam and the badly-damaged choir loft became "a real challenge” because of the need for new wood and construction of an extra doorway.

There was also a problem of matching custom made replacement pieces of the ornamental wood trim on balconies to match those parts which survived the fire.

The official opening next month is still in the planning stages but a number of local dignitaries and visitors are expected to be on hand for the event.