The Site Committee

The Site Committee, a special subset of the Voluntown Historical Society aims to establish, implement and maintain plans of restoration and care of the many historic sites and buildings within the town of Voluntown.  These sites include the Wylie School House, the Voluntown Methodist Church and Meeting House and the Line Church (which straddles Voluntown and Sterling), historic homes, mill foundations, V rocks, various cemeteries, and other historic sites.

Members:  Winona Berdine, Karen Britt, Janet Cool, Ty Cool, Dave Hobbes, Mary Anne Nieminen, Jen Panko, Julie Soto, Ronald Tougas, and Jack Wesa.
The Site Committee meets periodically, as needed, throughout the year. 

The Site Committee has established a project plan with regard to the asset revitalization of the Voluntown Methodist Church & Meeting House located in downtown Voluntown, CT.

History:  The Voluntown Methodist Church and Meeting House was built before 1841, as it was in use in 1841.  The buildings architecture is rare and perhaps unique in design.
Key notes:
  • Based on documentation, it began as a meetinghouse in the early 1800s.
  • 1841 land lease indicates the building was already in existence as a church.
  • It is one of the last authentic representations of its unique design in New England:
  • Sloping floor.
  • Pulpit at the entrance (most churches built this way were altered within 30 years.)
  • Original barrel vaulted ceiling.
  • Seating capacity = 200.
  • Church held services Friday evenings, Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoon.The congregation thrived in the late 1800s but dwindled with the closing of the textile mills.
  • 1968 Voluntown Methodist Church & Meeting House merged with Bethel Methodist Church, ending the use of this historic building as a church.
The town of Voluntown presently owns the building and it sits in disrepair.
Recently added to the Connecticut State Historical Register, making it eligible for state restoration matching grants.

In order to arrive at credible cost estimations the Site Committee is relying upon input gathered within the last two to three years on the project - from several qualified sources, all experts in their related fields. 
As a baseline for restoration estimations the Site Committee used the Gilley Report, provided by Gilley Design & Architects summarizing the costs for the building’s restoration with input from Beth Acly of Cirrus Structural Engineering.  Estimated costs for additional construction initiatives were analyzed and prepared by the Community Meeting House and Museum-Relocation & Renovation Building Committee, a committee established by the town’s Board of Selectmen, in a report provided to the Selectmen on October 23, 2014.  This project plan includes an outline for the renovation of the complete building in-situ, see page 6.  The Site Committee now estimates this total cost to be approximately $315,000.

The expected repairs and updates to be made to the Voluntown Methodist Church and Meeting House are as follows (Architect & Engineering included as needed);
Exterior Repairs

Strengthen foundation
Replace roof
Repair and paint exterior walls
Repair or replace windows
Include handicap accessible entries & egresses
Repair and replace the bell tower
Update and install proper utilities
Interior Repairs
Repair and paint interior walls
Repair floor
Repair and replace ceiling
Repair or replace doors & windows
Install lavatory (Handicap accessible)
Create handicap access

Clean and restore
Refurbish original fixtures and furniture
Stage interior for purpose(s) of the rehabbed facility
Install security/alarm systems

Goals and use of the renovated Voluntown Methodist Church and Meeting House
The goal is that, after full restoration, the use of the renovated Voluntown Methodist Church and Meeting House be primarily used as an extension of our current town meeting facilities with a secondary use of housing a museum and other community activities. 
The renovated building would be available for community use for a variety of events such as;
a museum for Voluntown historic artifacts, pictures, stories, famous citizens, and records.
small events and shows/fairs (flower, quilt, wellness-holistic/health, antique, chamber music, Sacred Art Show, etc.).
town group meetings up to 200 people such as Scouts, Recreation Committee functions, Voluntown Historical Society meetings, and other social, cultural and recreational activities.
a Welcome Center, a destination.

Project Funding
Our initiative is to restore, repair, and maintain into the future - the Voluntown Methodist Church and Meeting House through grants, and donations through the Voluntown Historic Society's 501 (3c).
We plan to target both the general community nationally as well as regional Methodist Churches (we estimate over 600 in the New England area).  Our efforts will include a short video and possibly a Kickstarter campaign.  Our target is to raise at least $315,000 exclusively through donations and grants.  The Site Committee will reach out to individuals and institutions via hard copy mailings, email, and internet advertisements, including a section of dedicated webpage content.
In an effort to lower overall costs, we also plan to solicit both building materials and skilled labor on a donated basis from the local community. (These donations are not included in the overall repair estimates)
In the event that the fundraising efforts fall short of our goal, we intend to return and or reallocate donations, based on the wishes of donors, to other Voluntown Historical Society preservation projects.  In addition, if the fundraising goal is not met, there will be no request to the Town of Voluntown for funding for this project.

Project Timeline
It is the goal of the Site Committee that the Voluntown Methodist Church and Meeting House be fully repaired, restored and in full use by the Tercentennial of Voluntown in 2021.  To meet this goal, we must begin both fundraising and restoration efforts immediately.