CHANGES TO OUR CHURCH SANCTUARY BUILDING 1929-1931

In April 1929 there is a mention in the Session Book that “…we are looking forward to making needed repairs to the church and auditorium, with the possibility of a restoration to a former colonial period that will be of service and comfort to the congregation.” On January 14, 1931, during the Great Depression, the 363 members were called to a Congregational Meeting to approve borrowing $10,000 for repairs.

Brognard Okie, a noted authority on colonial architecture planned, designed, and supervised the restoration. He was a Philadelphia architect who also designed “Main Street” at the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial. Joshua Rutherford chaired both the restoration and construction committees. The total cost of the restoration was $36,107.51. Of that amount, Mr. McCormick paid $1,600 for a new east porch and nearly $ 25,000 was donated by the estate of Mrs. Henry B. McCormick. The congregation’s share was $9,161.31. We can see that then as now, Paxton is blessed with Angel Families – the Boyd family was a major contributor in 1905 and the McCormick family in 1931.Originally, the church had a dirt floor, and in an earlier renovation when a wood floor was installed, people talked about the hard-packed earth from generations standing on it. During the 1931 renovation, the wood floor was removed and the much of the dirt was dug out to allow access for hot water pipes for heat. Small I-beams and brick pillars were installed to support the weight of a concrete floor. Then brick alleys and board floors were installed to recreate what was installed in the past. The interior was replastered and painted white and woodwork refinished. During the work, efforts to cut into the stone walls were hampered by the cementless mortar of lime, sand, and hair. A tablet was installed in honor of the McCormick family for its support of this project.

Mr. Okie selected sanctuary lighting fixtures based on some found in the old Elder homestead that was thought to have been used by Rev. Elder. The pulpit light was an old wrought-iron holder fitted with a bowl and light that was found in the loft of the church. The green Venetian blinds were reproduced and hung after finding some of the originals in the sanctuary loft.

And what is in the sanctuary loft? Above your head are original hand-hewn beams as well as iron braces from the late 1800’s to support our curved ceiling. Access to it is through a small opening above the bell loft that only a few people have gone through.

When the work was finished, a week of dedication was scheduled from September 20 – 27, 1931. The first service in the remodeled church was held on September 20, 1931 with Paxton’s Rev. Harry B. King leading the service. The first communion service was held on September 27th at which time a communion cloth was used that had been in service for over 100 years. It was pure homespun linen about ten feet by three feet.

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