Rebuilding underway for Conway church destroyed by 2017 tornado 

  • The United Congregational Church of Conway, which was torn down in November 2018 after a tornado damaged it a year prior, is finally being rebuilt. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • The United Congregational Church of Conway, which was torn down in November 2018 after a tornado damaged it a year prior, is finally being rebuilt. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • The United Congregational Church of Conway, which was torn down in November 2018 after a tornado damaged it a year prior, is finally being rebuilt. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/17/2021 5:21:14 PM

CONWAY — Three years since it was razed, the United Congregational Church of Conway’s reconstruction process is underway.

After a series of delays due to a building permit rejection and some difficulty acquiring materials, the church on Whately Road broke ground in September and is hoping to finish by Easter.

“We’re sort of hoping Easter. That may be a false hope but that’s what we’re hoping,” said Building Committee member and church Secretary Eileen Schneider. “That’d be very nice.”

The church, which had been standing since 1885, was heavily damaged by a tornado that swept through Conway in February 2017. Initially it was thought that the damage could be repaired, but the damage proved to be too severe and the church was torn down in November 2018.

While the church is being rebuilt, Schneider said it will be a scaled-down version of the previous building because the price tag to rebuild a “two-story, typical kind of New England church” was too high.

“It won’t be the same soaring icon it was before. … To rebuild that building would probably be around $5 or $6 million,” Schneider said. “We wanted to have a building that’d be easier to maintain and easier to heat, and with all those things factored in, there’s no way that building could be replaced.”

Instead, the church will be one story and the budget will be $1,000,013 exactly, a number that Schneider and the Building Committee joke about. The church received $1 million in insurance funds to pay for the reconstruction.

“That’s our budget, that’s the contract we signed. We do have some contingency funds, but not a lot,” Schneider said. “We joke that we’ll have to split the $13 among the four of us to get the money for the contract.”

Thayer Street Associates of South Deerfield is undertaking construction and is “overseeing the whole operation,” Schneider continued.

“We’re hoping and doing everything on our own end to make sure the project moves on smoothly,” she said. “Thayer Street has been great and kept us informed every step of the way.”

Schneider said three-quarters of the foundation has been poured and the front part will be poured Friday. From there on, workers will begin framing the building. She added “supplies have been tough to get,” such as windows, which were ordered in September and are backordered for six months.

“I think it’s moving as well as it can,” Schneider said. “I’m hoping that the weather will hold off for us and that we won’t get a bunch of snow.”

After the tornado, the congregation began meeting at Conway Grammar School before the pandemic forced members to migrate to Zoom. As the town emerges from the pandemic, the church has been gathering for in-person services at a campground.

Schneider said the campground served its purpose, but the congregation cannot keep using it as the weather changes.

“We spent a lot of Sundays up there,” Schneider said. “It was fun for the summer, but we can’t do it anymore.”

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


Jobs



Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.


Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
 

 

Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy