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North Branford church replaces steeple missing for 114 years

New Haven

NORTH BRANFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– A church in North Branford now has something back that it has been missing for 114 years.

Fire destroyed the steeple of the Northford Congregational Church back when Teddy Roosevelt was president. Today that steeple was resurrected, just in time for the Lenten season.

“A lot of our church members are elderly and they were wondering if we would get this done in their lifetime,” said Church treasurer Peter Jenkin. “Yes, darn it we will.”

When the church was built in 1846, it had a tall wooden steeple designed by an acclaimed Yale architect Henry Austin. Then, a fire on Christmas Eve of 1906 gutted the church and destroyed the steeple. They made do with a short cap on the bell tower for the next century, then came bad news.

“The bell tower surrounding the bell that had been put up in 1906, was rotten, wasn’t safe,” Jenkin said.

In November of 2010, that cap and the massive 2,000-pound bell inside were removed. The Church needed to raise more than $200,000 to restore the tower to its former glory.

“Easier said than done. It took a lot longer than we thought,” Jenkin said. “We didn’t raise quite enough, but we were able to tap some investments that we had so we could get this finished.”

The new steeple is made of specially treated aluminum over a steel frame. It’s light but sturdy and weatherproof. The bell will no longer swing. That puts too much strain on the tower. An electronic striker will hit it. And as the whole thing is lifted into place, a whole congregation eagerly awaits the day the bell will once again ring over Northford.

“And to come during Lent and to be able to ring it on Easter morning and to be able to share our faith as a welcoming worshiping body of Jesus Christ and part of the United Church of Christ this is an incredible time,” said Rev. Robin Blumdon, the church’s pastor.

After all, this Lenten season is all about miracles. The perfect time for a long-lost piece of this church to rise again.

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