Sackets Historical Society acquires church building

The Sackets Harbor Historical Society has closed on its ownership of the Christ Episcopal Church building in the village. Watertown Daily Times

SACKETS HARBOR — The Sackets Harbor Historical Society closed Wednesday on its ownership of the 189-year-old Christ Episcopal Church building.

The society first sought to purchase the building at 207 E. Main St. from the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York in 2017.

“It’s special because of its historical significance and its beauty,” said historical society president David W. Alteri. “It’s one of the oldest churches in Jefferson County and the north country.”

The diocesan board of trustees in February of 2016 decided to sell the church after it was unable to recruit new parishioners. Its cornerstone was placed in 1823, and after some delay, its construction was completed in 1832.

The nonprofit historical society applied for grant funding through the state Consolidated Funding Application in July of 2017 to help pay for the purchase and to install new water and sewer systems for the church. The historical society also plans to have a new bathroom and an American With Disabilities Act compliant ramp installed. It currently has no running water.

The historical society originally budgeted $178,000 for the project.

“The state will basically reimburse the society half of that once we spend it,” Mr. Alteri said.

The society closed on its purchase of the church Wednesday through a bridge loan.

“The historical society wanted to obtain the building to preserve it and would like to make it into a sort of multi-use community center,” Mr. Alteri said.

Possibilities for use include performances, small concerts, lectures and art displays.

“If someone wanted to use it for, say a wedding or that sort of thing, that would be a possibility too,” Mr. Alteri said. “We don’t want to change the building too much. Right now, the plan is to keep the pews.”

The diocese secured $172,500 in grants and $52,000 in local donations in about a dozen years to complete a full-scale church restoration project, a multi-year project that was completed in 2014. The project came after a tree limb in 2006 crashed through the church’s roof and broke a pair of rafters.

“It’s an old stone building and it’s in pretty good shape now,” Mr. Alteri said. “The bell tower I think needs some work, but it’s in pretty good shape.”

Because of the pandemic the society won’t be hosting an open house at the church to celebrate its milestone.

“We’re going to try to do that virtually to some extent,” Mr. Alteri said. “It’s just a very beautiful church, with simple beauty inside. Everyone is struck by it.”

The Sackets Harbor Historical Society is based at a former bank building at North Broad and Hamilton streets. For more information on the society, go to its website at sacketsharborhistoricalsociety.org.

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