MOUNT DESERT — The tearing down is over and building back is well underway at St. Mary’s Chapel on Kimball Road in Northeast Harbor.
It is one of three churches of the Episcopal Parish of St. Mary and St. Jude.
Four years ago, church leaders discovered that the chapel, which was built in 1896 and remodeled in 1912, had serious structural problems. The roof was sagging and pushing the walls out. That caused the second floor to sag as well.
“The original truss design for the roof was not very good. But it still managed to last 120 years,” the Rev. Jane Cornman said.
Two weeks ago, the roof and second floor walls were removed, except for the front and rear walls. Now, new side walls have been built and, on Tuesday, a crane lifted the new roof trusses into place.
Meanwhile, the entire first floor is being renovated and reconfigured to improve functionality and make room for a new stairwell.
“We had a narrow stairwell with shallow steps, which didn’t meet the fire code,” Cornman said. “So, our architect had to design a different shape stairwell, which meant totally redesigning the first floor as well as the second floor.”
The new stairwell also will, for the first time, allow access to the basement from inside the building.
The chapel, where worship services are held, occupies most of the first floor, which also houses the parish office. Cornman said the remodeled worship space will be slightly smaller than it had been.
The large Parish Hall on the second floor is used by the church and community groups for meetings and other activities.
“We offer the space to the community for whatever people happen to need,” Cornman said.
She said the renovation project is on schedule for completion in early December.
“We are crossing our fingers that we will be able to get back in and do Christmas Eve in this church,” She said. “If not, we’ll be opening it up early next year.”
The total cost of the reconstruction and renovation project is $723,000. A capital campaign raised $500,000. The parish’s Centennial Trustees, formed by a group of donors when the church turned 100 in 1996, have allocated $223,000. They administer a trust that can be tapped to support the work of the parish.
Cornman said the church is pleased to be working with Fraser Associates Architects and the general contractor, E.L. Shea Inc.
“Both companies can and do find plenty of work for higher paying clients, but they have worked very hard to help us, as a nonprofit organization, find an affordable solution that fits our limited budget,” she said. “They have both shown integrity and dependability.”
St. Mary’s Chapel is used for worship services from Columbus Day to Memorial Day, when attendance is much smaller than in the summer. The rest of the year, services are held in the larger St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea on Shore Road.
The parish also has St. Jude’s Church in Seal Harbor, which holds services in July and August.