By Pam Teel
The Clarksburg Methodist Church has seen better days, with a roof that needs a total repair and foundation issues, amongst other things, the township is ready to step forward and bring the Church back to its original splendor. With a $250,000 grant from the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders through the Municipal Open Space Grant Program, the means for repairing the building was awarded in early December. Advocates for restoring the church breathed a sigh of relief knowing that all of their hard work paid off in their efforts to save the church and prevent further decaying of the building.
In 1998, under the direction of township resident and Historian, Doreen Polhemus, the church was fully restored and turned over to the township to be used for the community. Some might recall past successful events that were held at the church such as ‘Open Mike Night’ and ‘An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe’ before the damage to the roof occurred. The roof was severely damaged in 2011 during Hurricane Irene resulting in water leakage finding its way down to the very foundation.
In 2014, a structural engineer was hired to perform an inspection, and in 2015 a historical architect was hired to assist with documented ‘as built drawings’ and structural repair plans, all of which was needed to present to the Board of Freeholders in order to apply for the grant. The township will now match the grant money with money already set aside in the open space fund. There will be no monies coming out of regular levied municipal taxes.
Pat Butch, President of the Friends of Millstone Township Historical Registered Properties, (MTHRP) assisted the township in writing the grant. Her knowledge of grant writing and her dedication to the historic preservation of Millstone Township should be applauded. A true leader, Pat has been such an asset to this town sharing her knowledge and her creative visions with many of the township committees’ that she’s involved with. A former teacher, Pat, together with the MTHRP, and the Historic Committee, has many upcoming cultural and educational events in the works for the community to enjoy.
A special thank you goes out to the Millstone Township governing body and especially to committeewoman Nancy Grbelja who stood strong on the need to address the church’s repairs. Grbelja said she is looking forward to the resumption of community programs in the historic church. She thanked the county for its support of Millstone’s grant application.
The historic structure dates back to 1844 and was placed on the National Registry in 1999 as an example of 19th Century architecture of a small rural church. No longer functioning as a church, the building was repurposed as a Community Resource Center. The structure is the second oldest surviving church in Monmouth County and the oldest surviving church in Millstone. Besides the roof, the steeple and foundation also needs to be repaired.
Throughout the process, many township residents, including the churches closest neighbors, were on hand voicing their support in favor of saving the historic church so it could be utilized for future educational events. As a Community Resource Center, it will be used as an extension of the Baird Homestead Cultural Resource Center located on Baird Road, affording many educational and cultural opportunities to the community. The church can hold approximately 125 people and has great acoustics.
The goal of the Friends of Millstone and the Historic Committee is to see that the building is structurally repaired so it may be reopened and they can once again offer educational, cultural, and historical programs to the residents of Millstone.
The State Historic Preservation Office has approved the plans for all construction to move forward after an extensive detailed report was presented from both the architect and the structural engineer. The next step would be an ad, to be placed in the paper, by the Township Engineer to open up the bidding process for anyone wanting to put in a quote for the work needed to be done. Interested parties would also have to pick up a bidding package at the municipal building.
It will be a joyous sight to see the improvements to this historic building over the coming months as the church’s light grows brighter and brighter and the Church Shines once more.