Evolution and Restoration
The Cragsmoor Historical Society was founded in 1996 for the purpose of preserving the local history and restoring the Cragsmoor Federated Church, which had become a threatened landmark building. When the building was transferred to the Historical Society, it had suffered heavily from deferred maintenance. With the help of grant money from the state, an architect and dedicated members, the restoration of the building began, from roof repairs and the installation of metal roofing tiles, to the foundation replaced with drains and the windows painted and reglazed. An archival room was also constructed, with a climatically controlled system, that stores many collections of family and community history, as well as a special closet that secures paintings from many artists — past and present — who once lived in Cragsmoor. Soon, new brown cedar shingle siding will be installed on the entire building, and it will look as it did in the 1920s.
To many in the mountaintop hamlet, the building’s survival provides an opportunity to reestablish its historic function in the community. The oldest public building in the historic Cragsmoor community, it survives today with a remarkable degree of architectural integrity both inside and out — with natural wood finishes, decorative metal sheathing and period touches. The Society’s vision for this landmark building is to ensure its preservation as both an architectural landmark and a vital, functioning community facility.
A fond memory
The late Arthur “Artie” Liang, grandson of the artist Charles C. Curran, shared with the Society his memory from the 1940s: THE LITTLE BROWN CHURCH To the left of the Library is the little brown church. This is where Grandpa Curran went each Sunday during the summer. He supplied all the flowers for the altar…. Just inside the front door hung a rope that disappeared through a hole in the ceiling. It was great fun to get to ring the bell on Sunday. The rope would cycle up and down through the hole. With the first several pulls the rope only made a faint rumble as it went through the hole. Then, the familiar ring of the bell boomed loud and clear. The small weight of us youngsters against the combined weight of the bell and rope would lift us from the floor if we held on real tight…. Many of us kids were then to attend Sunday School. As I remember, the classes were quite boring, as we, overly energetic youngsters, would plot and scheme as to how we would distract the teacher while we escaped through the open window in order to go play. Grandpa was so dedicated to this church that after his death our family installed the first electricity to the building. We had a fluorescent light installed in his memory. All my life whenever I hear the song, “The Little Brown Church in the Dell,” I think of the brown church beside the library.
Dear Loyal Friends,
We have exciting news to share with all of you!
A former board member, and one of the founders of the CHS, has always included a financial gift to the Society as part of an estate. Seeing the need for this donation now, during the final stages of the building restoration, a gift has been made available for our 2013 fund drive in the form of a Matching Donation. During the next 90 days, if you donate $25, it becomes $50; $100 is doubled to $200, and $1,000 is increased to $2,000.
The foresight of this donor to create an incentive at the very point when this support is so greatly needed, rather than wait for some undetermined time in the future, is indicative of wise, thoughtful and generous planning. Using your planned giving now will double its value and provide the satisfaction of seeing it put to immediate use.
Fortunately, the long term goal to renew our building’s important function as a community resource is closer to completion than it has ever been, thanks to your generous contributions through the years in conjunction with the matching grant from the NY State Environmental Protection Fund.
As of this date, we are proud to report a final coat of stain has been applied to the exterior, a storage shed has been erected, and the foundation and framing of the handicap-accessible bathroom has been largely completed. In addition, the shared project involving the Society’s use of the Library’s water and their use of our land for a septic system has been completed. Please refer to the enclosed Building Update for photos of our progress and more details on the remaining interior projects.
We hope that, once again, your generosity will help move the Society closer to completing the restoration. Keep in mind that any donation you make will serve as an end-of-the-year tax deductible contribution to the CHS, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization to which all contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law.
You have helped us so much in the past, that we know you can appreciate the significance of this matching donation. It is with deep gratitude that we accept this generous gift, and we invite you to help maximize it.
Sincerely, the Board of the Cragsmoor Historical Society.
President – Sally H. Matz Vice President – Maureen Radl
Secretary – Donna Christie Treasurer – Richard Hartz
Restoration Coordinator – Larry Gobrecht Event Assistant – Doreen Brown
CHS BUILDING RESTORATION UPDATE click here for PDF
For almost a year now, travelers up the Cragsmoor Road have been enjoying the striking transformation of the first historic building to catch their eyes as they enter the historic district. We are pleased to report that we continue to make progress in restoring the former Federated Church building to its 1908 appearance, and that we have been able to draw upon our talented and skilled local contractors to complete various stages of the restoration. This summer the building got a bit darker as Ed Ward and his crew, O&R painters from Wallkill, applied a final coat of oil-based stain to the cedar shingles. Below, the tower and north facade receive their final coat.
Though not visible to the passerby, one of the most rewarding aspects of this project involves a partnership between the Society and the Cragsmoor Free Library. With the goal of sharing essential resources and our limited spaces for outdoor events, and minimizing infrastructure improvement costs, the neighbors agreed that the CFL would share its water source with the CHS, in exchange for siting a new combined leach field further away from the active stream in our back yards. The CFL and the CHS now share water and an all new septic system. The pipes, tanks and leach field have been installed and the Library’s new system is fully operational.
Right, Cragsmoor’s Bill Shamro, contractor for the bathroom excavation, septic system and water lines, inspects portions of the installation. Once the underground work was completed, construction began on a shed to store materials and supplies that conflict with our need to keep the community room and the backstage area safe, uncluttered and easy to set up for the variety of functions this community resource can accommodate.
Below, contractor, Jeff Scites installs doors on the shed.
The next phase of the project, now underway, is the construction of a handicap-accessible bathroom on the back of the building. Below, local mason, Gregg Greer, pours the footings for the bathroom. He also built the foundation walls and faced them with local stone to match the existing building. Framing and sheathing the addition is now underway and should be done before winter sets in.
During the winter, with the doors and windows installed, the rough plumbing and wiring done and the insulation in place, we will keep moving forward with interior finishes. Weather permitting, we may be able to complete the tedious process of hanging pre-stained cedar shingles to match.
The remaining restoration phases include repairing and refurbishing the exterior doors, interior finishes, including the decorative tin ceilings and walls, and the natural and painted woodwork. Additional lighting and electric upgrades are also planned as well as rebuilding the exterior exit stairs to be fire code compliant. Finally, we will install new exterior lighting, make some minor landscape improvements, and install a sign letting visitors know the building’s historic and current use.
We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and with your continued support down this final stretch, we look forward to finally enjoying this historic landmark as a fully functional cultural and community resource at the center of our hamlet.