Southold’s first ecumenical church was destroyed by fire in 2015, but will soon be reborn.
The loss of this historic ‘Bend Church’ on Southold’s Main Road, built in 1837 in a fire, has been felt by many others who loved its unique status as a historic landmark in the town of Southold Shock.
After eight years of hard work, the groundbreaking ceremony for the new church will take place at the site on Saturday, July 22 at 2pm.
“We are truly rising from the ashes,” said board member Susan Johnson.
Board chair Mark Sisson described the long struggle to select an architect, raise the necessary funds and get members to agree on a new church design. A sharp rise in construction and material costs has pushed the price tag to about $3 million for a building of about 4,000 square feet.
“The harsh reality of cost hit us hard,” he said. “For eight years, we dealt with rising costs, shrinking congregations, and we ended up reducing our footprint.”
Mr Sisson said the new architect’s design contained a single building. A host of local agencies — from the Southold Planning Commission, the Historic Preservation Commission, the Suffolk County Health Department and the state Department of Transportation — had to sign off on all aspects of the plan.
“Now, we’re finally on the verge of a breakthrough,” he said. “It will echo the old church and be a building that welcomes people to the town of Southold.”
The church has about 40 members, about 25 of whom are active members. “We do a lot of things in the old church, including concerts,” Mr Sisson said. “Now we can do those things and all kinds of things in the new shelter.”
Ceil Loucka has been a member for 30 years. She got word of the fire the day it happened.
“I could smell the smoke,” she said. “I know it’s burning. I live very close to the church. Oh yes, my heart is broken.”
When the new church was finally erected, she had only one word to answer: “Amen.”