Protect St Josephs Church as a Religious and Architecturally Historic Landmark that will be maintained through Historic Restoration to preserve it in its original state.
November 17, 2014
A lot of good things have been happening at the St Joseph's Church this year. I will provide an update here on the projects, please pass this along to anyone who you think may be interested in the status of the Church.
Closure with the Diocese after 4 years:
In July14 we finally finished business with the Diocese of Scranton on settling all of the open Deed/Title paperwork from 1864. During the title research for the Church purchase, an open deed was discovered from March 1864 where in spite of supposed clean deed transfers in 1915 and 1952, the Diocese still technically owned the St Joseph's Female Academy (this was the Convent that closed in 1866) behind the St Joseph's Church and Cemetery. The Diocese would not sign a quit claim on the parcel even though no one knew or thought the Diocese owned the property. The Diocese put a high price on the land and offered to sell it to the current occupants for a second time. Legal action to win a PA adverse possession court case would have been long, drawn out, and expensive even though all the necessary elements of adverse possession pointed in favor of the people who thought they owned it. Rather than spending a lot of money on attorneys, the landowners re-purchased the land at a price matched to the minimum expected cost to win an adverse possession legal fight. Similar to the Church sub-division and purchase, the back and forth with the Diocese took almost two years. Unfortunately, none of the Convent Sale money went to St Brigid's Parish because the Diocese spent more than that on their attorney.
In preparation for the gutter installation, and because it really needed to be done, all of the exterior white trim on the Church was repainted this summer. The combination of scraping, primer, and high quality finish paint should endure at least the 12 years that the previous trim paint lasted.
Basement Moisture and Dehumidifier:
The drainage ditch work done in August 2013 has worked well to keep the standing water out of the basement. However, water from the front and cemetery side roof eaves has been continuing to keep those walls of the basement wet. The parking lot side has gutters on the roof and that wall is completely dry. Since Spring, a commercial size dehumidifier has been running in the cellar. Rather than the past 99% humidity, the dehumidifier has kept the level down to 85%, but still not near 50% where it is preferred. Hopefully, once eave troughs are installed on the front and cemetery side roofs the corresponding basement walls will be dry.
All of the eave trough materials are purchased, on-site, and painted. Installation of the cemetery side snow guard and gutters is to start this week and be done before winter. The plan around Thanksgiving is to repair the basement entrance stone work and to permanently mount the new bilco hatch enclosure.
Three internal projects are planned as time permits and are just getting started. The first is to replicate and replace the missing wainscoting in the vestibule near the bathroom where the altar was removed and to repair a couple places where wooden molding is missing. The second is to repair and reassemble the original 1800's front altar purchased back from the Diocese. The third is to fabricate and replace one partial upper section of the Father Rossetti front NYC altar that was removed. This section will raise the back height up about 3 to 4 feet, move the Cross up over the existing dome, and partially fill in some of the big blank front wall. There are no plans to go as high or as elaborate as what was there before the demolition.
The 20 year old furnace was declared end of life during the annual service because of a crack in the fire box heat exchanger. The constant moisture in the basement probably shortened the life span. Similar to other 1880's buildings, there was never any flue liner in the chimney. If you look at the middle of the back outside wall of the Church you can see the damage done to the brick over the years from chimney heating/cooling and from the sulfuric acid formed while burning fuel oil coming out though the brick. On 5Nov we had a new full length stainless steel chimney liner installed and hidden in the existing chimney to prevent more brick damage and to make the chimney safer. The replacement oil furnace will be installed on 4Dec.
Public Address System:
A unique request came in during Nov14 to use the outstanding acoustics of the Church as a recording studio to make a musical record. Once the album is complete, we are to get a copy for the website. The audio set up for the recording was done by a professional Audio Engineer. Rather than take money for payment to use the building, we bartered with the Engineer and he replaced the missing wireless components to get the old public address system working again. Besides the microphones being totally wireless now, we have the capability to play audio from modern electronic devices (iPods) and to record audio to a computer. The mic, speakers, and recording were used for a wedding this past weekend.
So far in 2014 there have been two weddings with a third planned for Jan15. Over Columbus Day weekend the Church hosted an art show as part of the Susquehanna County Artist Open House Weekend. The building has been used for two community gas meetings with the last one being filled to capacity. As promised and pointed out during the purchase of the Church from the Diocese, in Nov14 the building was used as a support facility for restrooms and parking to accommodate a funeral in the Cemetery. The grave dug for that funeral in one of the normally wettest areas, was almost completely dry, something seldom experienced in St Joseph's Cemetery. The Aug13 drainage project has served to dry up the Cemetery as well as the Church basement.
The 2014 Christmas Party is planned for Saturday 13Dec and Sunday 14Dec. Please join if you are able and pass the word. Last year's event was a huge success and raised almost enough money to pay for the heating oil for the 2013-2014 heating season.
1. Once the gutters and basement entrance are installed this year, all of the disruptive work around the outside of the Church should be finished for a while. When Winter is over we will finish landscaping around the building where the soil settled from last year's drainage ditch project.
2. The next major work on the building envelope will be to repair the two large stained glass windows in the front of the Church underneath the steeple. If you look from the inside at these windows up in the balcony you can see where some of the glass has settled away from the middle window frame.
Longer Term Projects beyond 2015 (as time and money permit):
- Continue making window by window stained glass repairs for those that need the most work. This will be done one window at a time to spread out the cost.
- More permanent main floor repair is required once the basement moisture problem is permanently fixed.
- Eventually, but hopefully a few years down the road, the parking lot will need to be redesigned and partially repaved using gravel and a lot less blacktop.
- We will try to get a few more years out of the existing sign out by the road. When that one finally gives out we need to build a replacement.
Bill McVaugh has put in A LOT of volunteer time at the Church. He acts as host for people who are using the building, to provide information to visitors, as an escort for contractors, and he in general keeps a daily eye on the security and upkeep of the Church. Please help thank Bill for all his efforts the next time you see him.
Sometime during the Winter we will need to have a Board Meeting. Please send me input, suggestions, or ideas for the Church and the non-profit in the meantime. For more information, photos, and how to contribute to preserving the Church see http://www.preservestjosephs.org/ .
September 30, 2013
A lot of good things have happened with the building since the last St Joseph Church Status note:
1. Joe Sabol, a friend of Father Rossetti, donated his Hammond organ which is now located in the balcony.
Joe also gave the Church a wooden altar, a lectern, and a large wooden self standing cross.
2. The Parish gave back many of the pictures that were hanging on the walls and the missing statue from over the left front archway.
3. The prayer room curtains, the red floor rugs, and some of the small statues and decorative pieces that had been glued to the walls have been returned.
4. The church furnishings dealer, who stripped the Church, sold back several of the original pieces. The Sacred Heart statue, a replacement base, and the St Joseph's statue are in the building. Purchased but not picked up yet (until after the wedding) are the six large candle sticks, the original center backward facing front altar, which had been under Mary in the shrine, a replacement brass crucifix for over the tabernacle, and the flags that had been on the balcony. Unfortunately, the statue of Mary and the other two original side altars were damaged and disposed of when the Church was gutted. The dealer is going to find a replacement 4 foot Mary to match the size of the St Joseph statue.
5. The inside of the Church has been cleaned and a bug guy came to spray and get rid of the spiders.
6. The bathroom is functioning again.
7. The building is ready for the Wedding on Saturday, 5Oct.
Many local people have commented on and been thankful for the return of the chime sounds that Bill McVaugh was able to program. I would like to thank Bill for all the time and effort that he as put in to the restoration and maintenance work. We joke that he has many titles, but the two at the top of the list are Chime Master and Head Grounds Keeper!
1. The air conditioning system still works, but the furnace needs a new exhaust pipe and an annual tune up. The outdoor fuel tank is now red and will eventually get another coat of paint to better blend in with the brick walls. The plan is to keep the temperature set a little higher than the past 40 degrees through the winter to continue to dry out the building. Fans are running to help dry out the basement.
2. The Bilco hatch over the basement entrance is in the process of being replaced, hopefully before winter.
3. Water is still getting in the basement from the eaves during rain storms. We have to get eaves troughs in place on the front end and the cemetery side before winter.
Future midterm (during the winter / next year) projects:
1. Still have to get going on a website when there is time.
2. The returning altar is in tough shape and disassembled. It needs finish carpentry work to put it back together.
3. The tentative plan is to add one more section back on top of the front altar and place the large self standing cross on top of that.
4. Replace wainscoting on the vestibule side wall.
Long term future projects (when funding permits):
1. Once the basement is totally dry, the main floor will need to be repaired.
2. There are a couple of the stained glass windows that need their metal components repaired.
3. The outside white trim on the Church and around the windows has to be painted.
In the vestibule is a sign in guest log. It seemed like every day working there that different people would stop in to say how happy they were that the Church is being saved. There are some interesting stories from visitors. So far the furthest travelers were from France.
Thanks to the folks that have been able to help out and thanks to those who have been able to donate money. Please pass this note on to anyone you think might be interested in the St Joseph Church. Encourage them to make a charitable tax deductible donation, please ask them to mail a check to Shirley Kelly made out to Preserve St Josephs; 23126 Rt 267; Friendsville, PA 18818.
We will try to get together for a non-profit board meeting around Thanksgiving or New Years.
March 4, 2019
St Joseph's Church is once again Exempt from Property Tax:
After a year and a half of appeals that ended in a court case and trial, both the Susquehanna Court of Common Pleas and the Susquehanna County Assessment office have notified us that St Joseph's Church is once again Exempt from all Property Taxes. We won the case to return St Joseph's to Tax Exempt status the way it has been for over 150 years.
President Judge Jason Legg did a fantastic job in citing many past Court Cases related to tax exemption for religious worship. The County now considers the Church Bulletin, the Sign out front, and the Website as sufficient proof of "regularly stated religious worship" to classify the Church as Tax Exempt. In his findings, Judge Legg pointed out that the primary purpose of Saint Joseph's Church is religious worship; that it "is exclusively designed in a manner that befits only religious ceremonies"; that the property has no other reasonable or functional use aside from a place for religious worship; and its primary and sole purpose remains to be a structure devoted to religious worship. Based on this, he ordered that the property remain tax exempt. The legal case precedence that the Judge referenced, his summary wording, and his documentation of the decision should serve to keep St Joseph's Church Tax Exempt in future years.
Thank you to all who helped make this possible. The Tax savings are about equal to the annual energy bills for the Church, therefore, more funds are preserved for maintenance and historical preservation.
August 26, 2013
The drainage system is 95% complete around the Church. The only thing left after the trench back-fillmaterial settles is to bulldoze and grade three surface diversion ditches just outside the edges of the property where the piping was already installed. The completed work included:
- installed 6 piped drainage ditches. Around the Building the pipes are two feet below the basement floor and around the cemetery the pipes are lower than the bottom of the graves. This should dry out both the Church and the Cemetery.
- fixed the surface diversion along the front grass parking lot
- cleaned up the brush and trees in hedges
- placed over 4200 feet of pipe
- used about 900 tons of stone
The excess dirt piles will be removed from the parking lot.
The first phase of interior restoration is finished. The completed work included:
- Patching and painting. We were able to exactly match 5 of the original major wall and trim colors.
- Lights and chandeliers fixed
- Marble floor repaired
- The vinyl floor was temporarily patched with painted plywood where the marble/ceramic tile was missing or where the old floor had failed from moisture rot. (Fixing the floor sub structure and replacing a permanent floor surface will need to be future priority projects.)
- Temporary fans are currently running in the basement to speed up the drying.
There are several people finishing the interior cleaning on Tuesday afternoon. The Plymouth, PA company who stripped the church still has the original Sacred Heart and St Joseph statues along with the altar that was in the Mary Chapel. We will see about buying these back next week. Supposedly the sale money, minus commission, flows back to the Parish. An old friend of Father Rossetti's has offered us a wooden altar table and an organ. I have requested that Father Stanis allow the smaller items (pictures, plaques, small statutes, etc.) that remained with the Parish to be returned to the St Joseph's Church as part of the historic restoration. If you are talking with Father, please reinforce this request. Getting the "Bylaws" in place, establishing the website, installing eavestrough, and having a Board Meeting are on the to-do list.
Many, many, thanks to all those who donated their time, effort, and money to support the drainage and restoration work! People have been very generous with their time and money. Thank you for this!
If you know of anyone who would like to make a charitable tax deductible donation, please ask them to mail a check to Shirley Kelly made out to Preserve St Josephs; 23126 Rt 267; Friendsville, PA 18818.
Please pass this status and request on to others who may be interested. You can not imagine the number of people who stopped by over the last two weeks to ask what was going on with the Church and to express their relief that it was being saved. The plan is to use St Josephs Church for multi-denominational religious things and to preserve it as an historic landmark, so please include anyone who is interested in Preserving St Josephs, not just Catholics.
October 6, 2013
St Joseph's is Up and Running
St Joseph's Church is back in shape again! Pictures (compliments of Bill McVaugh) of yesterday's wedding in St Joseph's are on the website. I hope the Bride and Groom don't mind a little publicity of their wedding (feel free to yell at me if it's a problem)?
I am a little biased but I think that the Building looks great considering the state that it was in after the gutting. Thanks for all your work, for the return of the items to the Church, and for the donations that a made getting to this point possible!
There is still a long list of never ending projects to keep this great building maintained in its original state, but at least now it is usable as we proceed.
December 11, 2014
Projects - Completed:
The new snow guard, remaining gutters, and downspouts all the way around the Church are installed and working. We should know by Spring if this eliminates the rest of the basement moisture problem on the front end and the cemetery side that did not previously have gutters. Time will tell if capturing the water off the roof will finish drying up the basement or if we have to do something to seal the dirt floor.
The furnace was replaced last week and is now all set for the Winter.
In an attempt to get some more life out of the sign by the road, the posts have been replaced and the sign board will be repainted next Summer.
The stone foundation for the Bilco basement hatch is in place.
Last month there was a second music recording session using the acoustics of the Church. See the YouTube link on the website http://www.preservestjosephs.org/ for the recording process and some good video of the Church. The next wedding is scheduled for next month.
The Christmas Open House will be held this weekend on Saturday 13Dec from 11am to 3pm and on Sunday 14Dec from 2pm to 6pm. Please pass the word and join if you are able.
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August 1, 2019
Preserve St Josephs Sponsors Adopt A Highway
Preserve St Josephs has been approved for an Adopt A Highway sponsorship with the PA Department of Transportation. You will eventually see signs posted on Rt 267 by Bill Nash's house and on the Choconut Township Boundary with Forest Lake Township. There is also suppose to be a sign placed on the North Road near the Lake Timberline entrance.
Many of the same people who have been involved with Preserve St Josephs are already engaged in picking up trash and doing cleanup along Rt 267 and the North Road. The intent is to get some public recognition for Preserve St Josephs while getting supplies for those who do clean-up. Please let Pat Flaherty know at Wiser@att.net if you need supplies like gloves, safety vests, and trash bags and we can request them from PA DOT. They will also pick up the trash bags along the highway once filled.