NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – The antique carriage house that serves as a parish hall at North Salem’s St. James Episcopal Church is in line for a facelift and some body work as well.
“Like many old things, you just get used to looking at them, and one day you wake up and see how neglected they are,” said the Rev. Lucia Ballantine, the pastor at St. James. “Nothing’s been done to the carriage house since the 1950s.”
The date of the carriage house’s origin is difficult to ascertain, she added. The church was completed in 1869, but the cornerstone says 1810.
Plans for the renovation include a new roof, fresh paint, refurbished halls, improved electricity and plumbing, and a new kitchen. The footprint will remain the same. While 21st-century amenities fall into place, a simultaneous goal is to restore the building’s original character.
“Upstairs will feel like a historic meeting hall, with a cathedral ceiling, exposed beams and more natural light,” Church Warden Katherine Daniels said. “Downstairs will house the North Salem Nursery School, a Sunday school, and rooms and offices for tutors and church officials.”
An elevator will be added, she said. The plan includes removing the macadam area between the church and the carriage house and replacing it with a garden, she said.
The parish/carriage house has been used for various public and private nonprofit functions, including the nursery school, youth group meetings, the 4H Club, the Historical Society, local musicians, dancers, yoga classes and a variety of parties.
“The renovation will benefit the entire community,” Daniels said. “It will be a community space, and it will complement other spaces in town.” A local survey found the North Salem community is concerned with the appearance of the church and the parish house, she said.
A fundraising campaign began in January. “We were relying on our parishioners, neighbors and friends,” said Ballantine. “In June, we’re going to initiate a brick campaign. You can purchase a brick with your name on it.” The bricks will be used to create a walkway.?
So far, the congregation has raised more than $250,000. The work is expected to cost $600,000. Construction will begin at the end of August. The church hopes to complete the work before the summer of 2014.
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