New weather vane to grace Searsport steeple

By Fran Gonzalez | Sep 08, 2019
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Something missing here? The First Congregational Church of Searsport, shown here Aug. 30, without its weather vane. A strong windstorm in October 2017 damaged the previous instrument and the church has been without a weather vane since.

Searsport — Steeplejacks were busy repairing the weather vane atop the First Congregational Church last week, fabricating a shiny copper cap along with a 23-karat gold leaf arrow, which is expected to be both functional and eye-catching.

The previous weather vane on the 185-year-old church sustained damage after a particularly strong windstorm in October 2017.

“We lost the weather vane then,” said Dan Nichols, vice chairman of the trustee committee. "It was springtime before the steeplejacks retrieved the pieces.”

The project was expected to be completed late last year, but dates were pushed back, according to Nichols. “It took a while to get on the steeplejack’s timeline,” he said.

The new weather vane was fabricated by Mid-Maine Restoration in Waterville. Manager Andrew Wilcox showed a piece of broken center mast from the old weather vane. “The old pole was rusted, hollow and bent in the windstorm,” he said. “I honestly don’t know how old it was.”

The new weather vane, Wilcox said, is made of a solid piece of cold-rolled steel. It will fit into a tailor-made hole and will slide down through.

“It is weighted and design to point to the wind,” he said.

The new weather vane, he said, will last 70 to 80 years. “We will all be underwater” by the time this fails, he added.

Wilcox said their outfit had previously repaired the louvers about 12 years ago and sided the steeple six or seven years before.

The weather vane is not the only project underway at the church; a new 30-foot extension of the existing building is starting to wrap up as well.

The new section will house a nursery, Sunday school classrooms and an ADA-accessible elevator. Nichols said the building will also have an emergency generator and will serve as a warming station in the event of an town-wide power outage.

“The project initially started because we needed an elevator,” Nichols said, and grew from there. Currently the walls are up in the addition, but inside still needs to be completed. Pieces of the elevator are coming together, but the “elevator guys need to get in there,” he said, “and the sprinklers have to be installed.”

The entire project, Nichols said, has a budget of $400,000, which has been raised by donations. The work is expected to be completed later this year.

Tom Bourque of Mid-Maine Restoration applies adhesive to the new weather vane Aug. 30. Bourque said once the adhesive is tacky, he places sheets of 23-karat gold leaf over the surface of the arrow and once dry, brushes it smooth. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
On Aug. 30, Mid-Maine Restoration Manager Andrew Wilcox shows a photograph of the weather vane damaged in 2017. His crew is installing a new instrument to the top of Searsport First Congregational Church. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Mid-Maine Restoration Manager Andrew Wilcox on Aug. 30 shows a piece of the original hollow, rusty mast that held the previous weather vane atop Searsport First Congregational Church. The new mast will be constructed of a solid piece of metal and will slide down into the steeple. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Dan Nichols, vice chairman of the trustee committee, stands in front of the First Congregational Church of Searsport Aug. 30. The Greek Revival church was built in 1834 and is completing an addition in the next few months. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
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