The Congregational & Presbyterian Church, located in Kinsman, Ohio, is known far and wide as one of Trumbull County’s oldest extant churches. Built in 1833, by master architect William Smith, the church features a soaring bell tower, accentuated with wooden spires mounted at each of the four corners of the tower. After nearly 170 years of exposure to the elements, the structural and trim components of the wooden tower were succumbing to rot and deterioration, making the entire structure a safety concern. The church braced itself for what certainly looked to be major repairs.
As church leaders were investigating repair options, Bill Sandrock, the owner of Stratton Creek Wood Work in Kinsman, discovered historic drawings of the church from the early 1930s on the website of the Library of Congress. The illustrations, which documented the centennial of the church, showed the intricate details of the original bell tower, spires and gingerbread woodwork. Most of this original detail had been lost in a 1970’s renovation where the architecture of the bell tower and spires was simplified and the trim replaced with more modern design concepts. After seeing the original drawings, the congregation set out to replace these important architectural features.
Sandrock was asked by the congregation to reconstruct the entire top of the church and restore it to its original 1800’s splendor. To restore the authentic look to the historic church, while protecting the substantial investment of the parishioners, Bill began looking for a material that could be milled to replicate the original architectural elements. Sandrock also wanted a material that could stand up to the elements, be impervious to rot and insects, and require little or no maintenance. He turned to VERSATEX and the company’s complete line of cellular PVC trim components.
“We do a great deal of intricate restoration work, and started using cellular PVC for exterior applications about four years ago because it can be cut and shaped like wood,” commented Sandrock. “We tried a couple of brands, but settled on VERSATEX because it's a denser product with fewer voids. To get to the thickness of the wood panels we were replacing, we laminated the PVC sheet to give us the needed thickness and then milled it to our specifications. Some of the other products we tried were too thin for our needs. VERSATEX glued up better and always arrived in a consistent thickness.”
While VERSATEX has a strong reputation in the building industry, this project demanded new fabrication techniques and assembly strategies to address the specifications of the job. VERSATEX leadership worked closely with Stratton Creek Wood Work and American International Construction to develop the products, techniques and processes needed to bring the restoration to fruition. According to John Pace, President of Versatex, “The millwork on his job, as intricate as it was, showed us a few things we hadn't thought were possible before.”
The Kinsman Presbyterian Church project took over a year to organize and fund, and another year to complete. Today, the bell tower structure is completely restored to its original, historic appearance, symbolizing the beauty of early 1800’s Greek Revival/Gothic Revival architecture popular during that period of American History.