Led by resident, Deerfield replaces panel on South Deerfield Congregational Church

  • Two chairs sit inside the clock tower of the South Deerfield Congregational Church on North Main Street, perhaps the resting spot of whoever had to wind the weights up the steeple before the clockworks were electrified. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Deerfield Highway Superintendent Kevin Scarborough is given an assist from Tower 1 of the South Deerfield Fire District as he places a panel over an opening in the steeple of the town-owned South Deerfield Congregational Church on North Main Street. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • The bell in the belfry of the town-owned South Deerfield Congregational Church on North Main Street still chimes every half hour. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Deerfield Highway Superintendent Kevin Scarborough is given an assist from Tower 1 of the South Deerfield Fire District as he places a panel over an opening in the steeple of the town-owned South Deerfield Congregational Church on North Main Street. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Michael Kolakoski of the Deerfield Highway Department climbed up three ladders past the clock and the belfry and up to the steeple to secure a panel from inside the town-owned South Deerfield Congregational Church on North Main Street. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Deerfield Highway Superintendent Kevin Scarborough is given an assist from Tower 1 of the South Deerfield Fire District as he places a panel over an opening in the steeple of the town-owned South Deerfield Congregational Church on North Main Street. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 11/19/2021 1:48:58 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Thanks to the efforts of the South Deerfield Fire District, the Highway Department and a concerned resident with an interest in Deerfield’s history, a broken panel above the belfry of the South Deerfield Congregational Church was replaced Thursday afternoon.

In a combined effort, the South Deerfield Fire District’s Tower 1 truck pulled up to the side of the church on North Main Street while Highway Superintendent Kevin Scarborough rode up the ladder to install a new panel that was created in the garage of Deerfield resident Peter Thomas.

Thomas, who serves on the town’s 350th Anniversary Steering Committee, noticed the panel had fallen off the church and notified the town that he would be able to produce a new panel on his own, so the repairs could be made as soon as possible.

“(It was the idea of) come to them with a solution, not a problem. … I went to the town and said, ‘I’ll make it,’” Thomas recounted. “All I could envision is 6 feet of snow in the belfry leaking down.”

He added the church, which was constructed in 1821, is a crucial part of the town’s history and can play a vital role in celebrating the town’s history when the 350th anniversary comes around.

“Architecturally, it’s one of the anchors for the village in terms of history,” Thomas said. “It’s a historic part of Deerfield for the 350th … (and it’s important) this survives and is in good shape.”

While the church is significant to the town, Thomas said personal reasons also drove him to help in the repairs.

“I grew up in this town and the church has been part of my life, I’m 77, it’s been a while,” Thomas said. “My parents went to this church.”

As the church — which Thomas said is the oldest building in Deerfield — celebrates its 200th birthday this year, he noted that the town rolled it down North Main Street from the area of where Frontier Regional School is in 1848 to its current location. In 1865 the church added a 25-foot addition to the back end of the church, and also built the steeple and added the pillars to the front of the building, which are each made up of a singular, solid piece of wood.

There have been talks in town about possibly demolishing the church, but town officials steered away from that decision this week, something Thomas was glad to hear.

“I think about trying to explain the history with a big void here,” Thomas said. “For the 350th, more people can learn about that history.”

Thomas said he was glad to have the support of the town in repairing this piece of Deerfield’s history.

“I’m just really thankful for the town, and Kevin particularly,” Thomas said. “It’s good and sound for the winter.”

To repair the panel, South Deerfield Fire District firefighters Lt. Bob Swasey and Capt. Kurt Seaman pulled Tower 1 into the parking lot, while Scarborough hooked himself into the tower and put the new panel in place.

“It’s really nice we’ve got an excellent working relationship with the South Deerfield Fire District,” Scarborough said. “It’s a drill for them and we’re happy for the help. There’s no way we could have got it done without them.”

Scarborough added he was happy to help contribute to such a historic building in South Deerfield.

“To my understanding, this is the oldest building in town,” Scarborough said. “It’s nice to try and make sure nothing happens to it.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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