Salisbury belltower undergoing repairs

SALISBURY — For folks who live in the town of Salisbury, depending on where they live, there are certain sounds which are part of the auditory landscape — the rush of water, whine of mosquitoes, peepers, birdsong, the coyote chorus, power tools, to name a few. Two others come to mind: the train in the wee hours in West Salisbury and the tolling of the bell from the church in the village.
The bell, a husky beauty cast by the Meneely Foundry of Troy, N.Y., the same foundry that cast the bell in the Middlebury Town Hall Theater, used to be rung quite regularly by the Sunday school children and for notable occasions such as the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s birthday and the Ice Cream Social.
Then, sometime during the past year, neighbors began to notice the absence of that resonant tolling. On closer investigation it was discovered that the rope wouldn’t budge.
About the same time, water stains began appearing on the ceiling tiles and before long, it was obvious that there were serious problems in the tower. Professional scrutiny revealed subsidence and rot in the massive timbers of the graceful 1838 building whose design is almost certainly by Ammi B. Young, a celebrated architect in his day whose other Vermont buildings have mostly succumbed to fire or progress. So, the bell will not be heard again until the repairs are made.
Trying to imagine the town without this visible, and audible, landmark and the history it represents in the life of the town is a wrenching exercise. Its loss would be incalculable. The small congregation and friends are collaborating to assemble the daunting sum which the repairs have been estimated to require — $130,000.
The sphere of influence of this beautiful structure extends far beyond the weekly Sunday services and the Christmas Eve gathering. For over 30 years there has been a focused effort to provide a rich cultural component to complement the outdoor attractions of the summer community.
Just since the Fourth of July’s Ice Cream Social (believed to be the oldest in the state), there have been three Summer Series concerts on Friday evenings, Camp Point CounterPoint rehearsals, a student camp recital, a Lake Dunmore Association meeting, a library trustees meeting and a pie-making day. Still to come are a Salisbury Historical Society program, three more Friday evening concerts, two more Point CounterPoint rehearsals and recitals, and to cap their season, Point CounterPoint will celebrate their 50th anniversary with a special concert in early September.
Efforts so far have resulted in a $20,000 matching grant from the State Division of Historic Preservation, and in early August representatives from other possible funding sources will visit the church to assess its eligibility for further grants.
Meanwhile, the tower has been wrapped externally to prevent further water damage. This was done, on an emergency basis on the Fourth of July by Jeff Hornbeck and his crew, an act of generosity which made it possible for the 39th annual Ice Cream Social and the 34th iteration of the Summer Series of Friday concerts to go on as planned.
Over 25 years ago, Alan Farwell, a retired Connecticut orchardist whose camp overlooked the village and the church, stepped in to help save the steeple. His gift and, later, one from Walter Cerf, made it possible to preserve the structure to the present. If there are those who would care to contribute to the current campaign, they may do so by contacting the Salisbury Church, P.O. box 61, Salisbury, VT 05769. The cost of the repairs is estimated at $130,000; the preservation grant, to be matched, is $20,000.
Editor’s note: This story was provided by Barbara Andres.

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