It was a banner day at the historic Troy Union Church, built in 1840.

On Aug. 12, Greg Rossel, Mel Moulton and Ron Cropley from the church climbed tall ladders to fasten it in place. The banner announces that the church's steeple restoration project, now under way, has been made possible, in part, through the Belvedere Fund Historic Preservation Grants Program of the Maine Community Foundation in cooperation with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

Even more exciting for the church community was the actual start of the restoration work on Monday, Aug. 18. Removal of the hanging ceiling, installed in 1954 for insulation, is the first step.

"This will allow access to the trusses that supported the belfry," explained Norma Rossel, who has been leading the project since summer of 2010. "After the ceiling is removed, preparation for some truss work will begin.”

An assessment grant from the Maine Steeples Project allowed the church to have the structure of the building and its steeple professionally assessed. "We learned why the tower is leaning," Rossel said.

"Water infiltration, mostly through the belfry, rotted the supporting trusses. The main chord spans 32 feet, and is so rotten that a pencil can be pushed right into it."

Now the tower leans heavily into the sanctuary. In April 2011, Arron Sturgis and his crew from Preservation Timber Framing in Berwick, installed a huge wooden stabilization brace in the back of the church, from the ground to the tower.

This prevents the steeple from continuing to lean even further, but truss repairs must be done before the brace can be removed. Preservation Timber Framing will supervise ceiling removal by local carpenters, and then will do the truss work.

To qualify for grant funding, in November 2011 Troy Union Meeting House (1840) was entered into the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Park Service.

Rossel applied for the Belvedere Grant in September 2013 and received word of the award in late November.

“The funds arrived in late March, and we've bolstered that with donations from the extended church community and fundraising," she said.

When they learned that Preservation Timber Framing would arrive July 23 to begin setting staging for the ceiling removal, Rossel said, "we quickly moved out of the church, and transported our piano to the B. B. Cook Clubhouse down the road, our church for now.”

The church is still in need of additional funds, she added. Donations can be sent to Treasurer, Troy Union Church, 230 Bangor Rd., Troy, ME 04987.