×

Downtown: Christian Science church to close for renovations

  • Water damage is seen near the ceiling at the front end of the First Church of Christ, Scientist. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • First Church of Christ, Scientist, is seen in downtown Concord on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. Renovations will take place in the front end of the church including the organ loft. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • First Church of Christ, Scientist, is seen in downtown Concord on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Water damage is seen near the ceiling at the front end of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in downtown Concord on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • A room originally intended for use by Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy is seen at the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in downtown Concord on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Diane Johnston discusses future renovations to the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in downtown Concord on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Water damage is seen near the ceiling at the front end of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in downtown Concord on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Diane Johnston plays the chimes inside the tower of the First Church of Christ, Scientist. Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • First Church of Christ, Scientist, is seen in downtown Concord on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Diane Johnston discusses future renovations to the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in downtown Concord. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • First Church of Christ, Scientist, is seen in downtown Concord on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. Renovations will take place in the front end of the church including the organ loft. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Light streams in through the clerestory windows of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in downtown Concord on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Tuesday, December 26, 2017

On Jan. 7, one of Concord’s most stately churches will close its doors.

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, at the corner of School and North State streets in Concord is in the midst of a $2.5 million renovation that has been going on for the last three years.

But this next push is the most extensive and will require services to move across the street in the church’s Sunday School building until April, according to church member Diane Johnston.

The renovation work so far has been extensive – the granite masonry sealed up, the roof replaced, the chimney liner installed, the iconic quotes from Mary Baker Eddy on the east wall of the clerestory restored.

In addition to repairing and repainting water damage on the walls and ceilings, the building’s electrical system will be completely redone. This entails removing the church’s bronze lighting fixtures – which date back to 1904 – and sending them down to a Pennsylvania outfit for rewiring.

“It’s the only lighting company that can do it,” Johnston said, “because they’re so old.”

So old, Johnston said, that the fixtures’ wiring falls apart when removed from the wall.

The preservation efforts will also mean the displacement of another key feature of the church. Dozens of the organ’s original speaking pipes will have to be carefully taken down, a process that will last at least a week, while painting proceeds, Johnston said.

“The people who are going to be building the scaffolding for the work were going to be building over the pipes,” she said, gazing up at the instrument. “They don’t know anything about an organ.”

Fundraising for the renovations has been ongoing since 2012, Johnston said. The original $2.5 million target has already been reached, thanks to donations from Christian Science churches all over the world. But they’re hoping to continue to raise money to build a maintenance fund, Johnston said.

“The church is quite historic in our movement, because Mrs. Eddy lived in Concord for many years,” she said, noting that the Christian Science faith was founded mostly in Boston. But the Concord church is featured often in Eddy’s writings, and she donated half of her fortune – $100,000 – for the church’s construction in 1904. A room was even set aside for her for when she came to visit.

All this, despite the fact that Eddy rarely frequented the church, member Lynn Dermott said.

“She was quite the worldwide celebrity,” Dermott said, “Sometimes she was quite sought after by the paparazzi. So she didn’t go to services here. She held them at her home at Pleasant View; otherwise the place would be mobbed. She didn’t want it to be about her.”

During the forced transition across the street, Johnston said the Sunday school facility will be able to accommodate the church’s 100 or so members. A ramp will be built to assist those with physical disabilities, and there’s a piano, so music will still be a part of services.

Another musical feature will persist despite the church’s closure: The 15 chimes that ring out 10 minutes before every Wednesday and Sunday service. Johnston said there was concern in the community that the chimes wouldn’t be played during the renovations.

Thankfully, that won’t be the case, she said, standing in the church’s 165-foot tower, which is vacant and reverberant in the winter. To demonstrate, she played “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” on the organ, her hands deftly weaving among the chimes, as the song carried down from above.

School Street facelift

Half a block away from he church, work at the School Street garage is expected to continue for the next 2½ years.

The $5.2 million renovation of the 467-space structure began three weeks ago, the first time the garage has seen serious renovations since it was opened in 1985.

Improvements include extensive steel and concrete repairs and updated signage inside and out, as well as fully enclosed stair towers, a new elevator, improved LED lighting and a surveillance system.

The garage will be open for business during construction, but some spaces will periodically be closed while work continues. All assigned spaces will be suspended and a permit system for lease tenants will be implemented after Jan. 1. Under the permit system, lease tenants will have the ability to park in any non-handicap space in the School Street garage, or any non-handicap or non-reserved space in the State Street garage.

A limited supply of customer only parking will be maintained throughout the project for certain tenants located at 57-81 and 41-51 N. Main Street.

Winter happenings

Ice skating at White Park and Beaver Meadow Pond are all open for ice skating, per the Concord Parks & Rec Facebook page. Conditions can change daily, so be sure to check the page beforehand.

On a fall note, the city collected 1,014 tons of leaves during their annual leaf collection efforts, which ceased Dec. 8.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)