Thanks to a $60,000 grant from the Colorado State Historic Fund, the First Congregational Church of Boulder will finally be able to conduct a much-needed restoration project at its historic sanctuary.
“The floor that currently sits in our sanctuary is the original floor since the building opened, and we are now at the place where it really needs to be replaced,” Chief Minister Chris Braudaway-Bauman said. “It can no longer be sanded down, as we have been doing for years now. The project will materialize in about a year and a half, and we are very excited.
The Colorado State Historical Fund has given five different grants totaling nearly $400,000 to Boulder’s First Congregational Church in previous years, with the most recent helping to completely replace the church’s red tile roof. , which was completed in late 2020. Other completed projects related to the church included an assessment of the historic structure as well as interior and exterior restoration, according to a detailed report from the State Historical Fund.
Boulder’s First Congregational Church, which opened in 1864, is the oldest continuously operating Congregational Church in the state, and it was also the first church ever built in Boulder, hence the need for various projects of renovation.
Bob Matthias, a church parishioner, was the author of the initial grant proposal and will also serve as the ground project manager. He has worked on the church facilities committee since 2017 and will serve as the soil restoration project manager.
“I had told Chris that the final project we needed to do to fully restore our church was the Sanctuary floor,” Matthias said. “I called a company to consider refinishing it and they said it had been sanded too many times and needed to be replaced. That’s when I decided to contact the Colorado State Historical Fund and apply for funding.”
Historic restoration projects can present many challenges.
“When we make changes, especially to the exterior of buildings, we have to be very, very careful about the changes we make in order to retain the historic nature. [of the church]which is easier said than done,” Braudaway-Bauman said.
Another aspect of partnerships with the state historic fund is that each project must have a preservation architect who will work closely with the rest of the team to ensure that all repairs and renovations do not alter the interior or exterior appearance of the building.
Garry Petri, who works alongside Spectrum and previously completed work on the church in 2000, will fill this role.
As for the old flooring, the restoration team is working to find someone who can use the now rare southern yellow pine.
As parishioners took advantage of the recent opportunity to be back in person for worship service after the coronavirus pandemic twice forced the church to hold worship services virtually, board members are working to determine if the project should start this summer or next. They will meet on Monday, April 18 to discuss timing, but Braudaway-Bauman and Matthias both anticipate the project to kick off around this time next year.
When the project begins, the sanctuary will be closed for six weeks and worship services will move to the church’s fellowship hall until the work is complete. Live streaming services, which the church has offered since the start of the pandemic, will also be available.
FCC Boulder is also committed to the inclusion and welcome of people with disabilities. After the floor renovations are complete, the church will self-fund a project to replace the hearing loop in the sanctuary, which is a special type of public address system for people with hearing aids.
“This is the final step in restoring our very historic structures,” Matthias said. “I’ve been involved in these projects for four years, and I’m thrilled to see it all come to fruition once the floor project is complete.”