2018-08-22 / News

Grant to boost Gould Church preservation work; Fund-raising campaign will launch in September

Extensive project work necessary for historic building
By Brian Sweeney

The Jay Gould Memorial Reformed Church in Roxbury, one of the region’s most significant historic structures, will get a much-needed boost for its renovation project thanks to a $262,000 grant award.

The recent funding announcement from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s Environmental Protection Fund grant program is expected to provide about half of the money needed for much-needed repair work to the iconic structure, located on Roxbury’s Main Street.

The Rev. Richard Dykstra is the minister at the Gould Church. He indicated that the paperwork for the grant is being finalized. Once the documentation is completed, church officials expect to go through a planning phase that will last for a few months. The project will then be put out to bid, with work expected to get underway next summer.

Project outline

The extensive project will include: re-pointing or repairing cracked stones in several sections of the stone structure, resealing capstones on the tower and on one of the end walls, buttresses on the corners of building need to have cracks repaired and open joints re-mortared. One of the large stained glass windows needs to be repaired, which may mean removal and reassembly of the individual pieces of glass with new lead caning. The interior’s plaster walls need to be repaired and painted. The stone steps at the entrances need to be repaired.

Rev. Dykstra explained that the project timeline could be as short as one work season, or it may take a couple of work seasons.

“We were told to expect the project to take three to five years from the date the grant was announced until the final paperwork is done,” he noted.

Because the grant is expected to cover only about half of the amount needed for the project, church officials are launching fund-raising campaign in hopes of covering the balance of the work.

“We plan to start the campaign in September and hope that a good portion of it is in hand before we reach the bidding stage next year. Essentially, the campaign will last until the amount of money needed is raised. We will have a couple of grant requests submitted to other funding sources in addition to the support that we are asking for from our members and the community,” the reverend explained.

37 years in Roxbury

Rev. Dykstra has served as minister for 37 years and said the Jay Gould Memorial Reformed Church has a membership of approximately 60 families. In addition to worship services, the church hosts activities for people of all ages, including a weekly Wednesday after-school children’s Church School.

The church was the site of several concerts last year, including a holiday concert by the Community Chorale, the Gould Church Choir entertained with a Christmas cantata and the church was the site of a “Phantom of the Opera” silent film showing with live organ accompaniment.

“We also do a couple of large dinners that feed several hundred people. We provide space to the community for support groups and supervised family visits. The church is also often open for tours,” the Rev. Dykstra noted.

Maintenance is key

As with any building, ongoing maintenance is the key to ensuring its longevity. During Rev. Dykstra’s tenure, keeping pace with upgrades has been a priority to help preserve the iconic structure that dates to 1894.

“During the time that I’ve been here, we’ve replaced our slate roof, rebuilt part of the main tower, re-pointed the entire building, replaced the protective glass covers on the stained glass windows, installed an elevator and completed a lot of smaller projects,” Rev. Dykstra recalled.

He added, “We replaced the wooden floor in the basement of the church after Tropical Storm Irene left us with 28 inches of water in the basement. Fortunately, we had just re-sealed the capstones on two of our walls, which helped protect those stonewalls during the heavy rain.

New heating system

The Reverend indicated that the last big project at the church was completed last month when the fuel oil boiler was replaced with a propane system. He explained that this changeover was necessitated because the chimney that weaves all the way up through the tower was becoming unsafe as bricks lining the interior were crumbling and falling into the shaft.

With nearly four decades of his ministry dedicated to the church, its members and the community at large, the Rev. Dykstra is keenly aware of the importance of the Jay Gould Memorial Reformed Church.

“This building is a unique treasure, both in the sense of its spirituality and also its historical uniqueness. I had a visitor from out the area who remarked, ‘You know that this is a church. You sense God’s presence the moment you walk through the doors. It isn’t like my church where I have to wait for the music to start or the worship leader calls us into prayer.’” he remarked.

The Reverend continued, “The other comment I’ve heard from so many people is that they consider this church building to be ‘their building.’ They may not be part of our worshiping group, but they claim it as their own because it is part of the area’s rich heritage. They may have been in it for a wedding, funeral, or concert, and felt its worshipful atmosphere, or they may simply appreciate it as one of the rare architectural gems of the Catskills. The thing is, they feel that it is theirs. And I’m really happy that they do.”

All support welcome

Rev. Dykstra added, We are hoping that a lot of people feel that it is worth saving and will support us in meeting our match to the grant that we were given. Our congregation really needs the community to help with this. I know that it will take gifts large and small to reach our goal.”

As church officials look to maintain one of the most historically important (see box for church’s history) buildings in the region, they welcome all contributions to the fund-raising campaign. Anyone wishing to make a donation should send checks to: Jay Gould Memorial Reformed Church, P.O. Box 267, Roxbury, NY 12474. Donors are asked to enclose a note stating that the funds are for the church’s repair project.

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