Playhouse and Music Theatre

2009

The first phase of our restoration is coming to a close. Hepco is mostly done after today. In fact they pulled their job trailer off the work site. There is still some work for the subcontractors specifically, the finish carpenters, roofers and the painters. The carpenters should be done in a week or so but the exterior painting may have to wait for warmer weather. We are also sill waiting on the roof to be completed. The weather always makes things more difficult to work outside in the winter. We also have the site work to complete and that will have to wait until early spring. We hope to be fully operational sometime in the early 2010. The newest photos are on the photo page. You must check them out. The finishing touches are being applied and we can see big improvements every day. We are hopeful that before long we can take visitors through to view this magnificent church.

I posted updated photos to the photos page. The “Old Elias Church” is starting to come alive. The finishing touches are being applied. The original floor is being uncovered and it is yielding a few clues to the history of the building. It is very exciting! The floor was covered with a new layer of flooring circa 1920 but prior to that is had seen a hard but interesting life. It was floor to the church for approximately 51 years, a school for 19 years, a barn for 26 years and a buggy repository for 18 years. If only the floor and walls could talk. The project is still slated to be done before the end of December. If anyone has any questions don’t hesitate to contact me. Use the information on the contact page. Merry Christmas to all!

I was in the church the other day and it was a “hub of activity”. The painters were there painting the ceiling, window sashes, doors and the finish carpenters were working on the stairways. The floors were being worked on. It is exciting to see the progress. We are still on track to finish on or about December 30, 2009. One of the roof panels is on but the winter weather we had last Wednesday put a glitch in those plans. Hopefully the roof will be completed next week. The west door was installed and if I must say so myself it looks great.

When we started this project in 2005 we had no idea what we were getting into or how we were going to get to wherever we were going with it. Sometimes naivety can be good. Our plans have changed several times since then. First our intent was to restore the building to it’s original state as it was in 2006 and do it as an accurate restoration. We intended to use cut nails, wood sawed and cut as it was in 1806, etc. We soon discovered that this was going to be a daunting task and require a lot more money and research. After much thought we decided that we could restore the church so it is a representation of what is was in 1806 and then incorporate some other features that were prominent throughout the different periods in the building’s history. For instance, the color of the interior walls is from 1806 but the interior trim paint is representative of a color used in the school period. The gallery floor is a floor used circa 1920 and is just about the only thing representing the private residence period. The plaster ceiling below the balcony is from the school period. There is a grain chute on the north wall that was used in the barn period. We did not cover the north wall on the gallery. All the timber framing will be viewable and on display. Our intention was to be able to move about the building and have visual representations of items unique to each period. This will be more instructive and exciting than just talking about something but not being able to see it and touch it. The bulk of the restoration is 1806 and it will be easy to understand what it was like when it was first built. Modifications representing other periods are minor and do not distract from the overall church experience. Merry Christmas!

The interior walls have one coat of paint on it now. The ceiling is about one-half complete. The ceiling is being lined with tongue and groove boards as it was in 1806 and then it will be painted. You can see the pictures of recent progress on the photo pages. Doors and windows will be installed shortly. The roof is going to be completed in the next two weeks. It is possible that the church could be done by December 30, 2009. We can all be thankful for the progress that we have made to date and that the circumstances were in our favor for over 200 years and the Elias Church survived. It allows us to relearn important lessons from the past. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Progress on the building is coming along very well. The exterior siding is very close to being completed. The siding was painted in the shop and installed. A final coat of paint will be added when the outside is complete. The final roof covering will be installed shortly. The doors and windows are being made by a craftsman. One of the doors is complete and is at the church now. The interior is nearly at the point where the finish carpenters will build the stairs and complete all the trim work. The painters have also been working on the church. The project will not be ready for the Christkindl Market but it should be done in the early part of 2010. We are trying to find reclaimed glass for the windows. Some of the glass we have in the current windows is old but there is some new glass mixed in. Our desire is for the windows to look authentic. If anyone knows where we can get some glass please contact us.

The last two blog entries are similar in nature. I am trying to convey the strong feelings the people in Mifflinburg had for the Old Elias Church. These are just two of many documented examples of distraught citizens lamenting about the state of their beloved church. It is somewhat frustrating because I don’t feel that I am adequately conveying the true anguish of those Mifflinburgers that went before us. I can feel their emotional attachment and the memories they have of it within me, but can’t seem to express it adequately on paper. There is something special about that building. I suspect it has something to do with the word of God being preached there for 51 years. I am honored and humbled to be a part of this exciting project.

This excerpt was taken from a letter to the editor that appeared in the Mifflinburg Telegraph on April 18, 1883. This person returned to town after a period of absence and was reminiscing and visiting places he/she remembered while growing up. Here are their sentiments when they saw the Old Union Church (now known as the Old Elias Church).

“Last to the old Union Church, the church of our fathers, whose solemn bell I have never ceased to hear. Alas! Alas! As I looked I said, is it possible? Can it be? A hay mow? A stable? How did it happen? Was it a necessity? Did anyone try to prevent it? Does anyone regret it? Is anyone trying to redeem it? My questions were not answered. I said the heathen of ancient of Greece and Rome had never so desecrated a temple once dedicated to one of their gods. Once sacred, sacred forever. Alas it takes a Christian to insult his God. I was gratified later to see in the Telegraph that a worthy effort had been made by at least one – one who felt the shame and the outrage of the desecration – and was sorry, too, that his effort was not successful. The blot, the scar, the shame, the unsightly thing remains – remains in sight of all the churches, on the sacred precincts of God’s acre, the city of the dead. Rarely, rather never have I seen an object so revolting to a very proper feeling, to every religious principle, every enlightened sentiment, every sacred instinct, every manly and womanly heart! If it is not possible to redeem and to some extent restore this holy place, surely it is possible to redeem and utterly destroy the building – to put forever out of sight and memory the mournful evidence that a house once dedicated to the worship of God, a house so many years consecrated by prayer and praise, a house made sacred by the tears of afflictions and the joys of salvation could in a Christian community become a thing called a stable – a hay mow! Keep it before the people. The people can do what they will. Get them to will.” Author unknown.

In October 1882, Mr. A.C. Whitmer launched an effort to raise money to tear down the Elias Church. His plan was to create what he called a “hitching ground”. (I believe that this was intended to be like a small park or memorial area). He did it because he and many of his fellow citizens were extremely distraught at seeing their sacred church being used as a barn. He would have rather seen it torn down than to see it being desecrated. He could not raise the necessary money to purchase the building from Mr. Robert Weirick and hence his effort failed. Maybe it was divine providence because his failure presented us with an opportunity to save the Old Elias Church. Mr. Whitmer detailed his efforts in the Mifflinburg Telegraph in the February 14, 1883 edition.

After giving up his efforts he approached Mr. Weirick and asked him for the contents of the cornerstone; here is what he found (in his own words). “When I saw that my plan had failed, I asked Mr. Weirick for the contents of the cornerstone and received them, for which I here publicly thank him. He cut into the North end of the stone and found a small pine box, nine inches long, seven inches wide and four inches deep, with a sliding lid. In it were two Catechisms, and a folded paper (no doubt giving a history of the church, names of officers, building committee, etc). The paper was almost dust. With a knife I lifted one fold, and could see the beautiful penmanship (in German of course), but dared not try to open it further. I ventured to open the Catechisms but they would not bear handling. The Heidelberg Catechism was printed in Germantown, PA, in 1802. The Lutheran Catechism was dated 1804. These relics are in my care and I will gladly show them to any one interested in them.”

Here is the agreement to build the Elias Church. It was originally written in German. This is the translation to English. “We, the undersigned members of the Evangelical Reformed and Lutheran congregations, in West Buffalo township, for the honor of the Triune God, for the glory of His Most Holy Name and to the furtherance of our own supreme good, have resolved to build a church in the town of Mifflinburg.” By a majority of the votes cast it was resolved, that we build a frame church on which there shall be a steeple. The church shall be 42 feet by 36 feet. Said Church shall be built on the lot bounded on the west by the street leading to the graveyard (burial ground therefore older); and on the south and east by land owned by Elias Youngman; and on the north side by the lane running along the lots of Conrad Blumenbaum. To the end, therefore, that the aforesaid Sanctuary may be built. We earnestly entreat all men who still cherish a sincere love for the house of God, to contribute of their temporal blessings which God has bestowed upon them, according to their ability. And that all may be done promptly and with exactness, we the members of both congregations, empower the Trustees who have for such purpose been elected, and those also who may be elected as their successors, to collect the sum or sums set to our names according to the laws of the commonwealth. Todays date, the 7th of Feb., AnnoDomini, 1805.”

Took some more photos today. Check them out on our web site. The interior wall boards continue to be installed. They look great. They are visible on some of the photos. The exterior siding was painted in the shop and is now being installed. Approximately one-half of the south side is complete. In 2005 we had a professional paint study done. Through detailed analysis using microscopes and other lab instruments we were able to determine the exact colors of the church in 1806 when it was initially painted. The color that you see now is the same color used when the church was first built and what it will look like when it is completed in a few months.

This journal is intended to keep everyone updated on the progress of the restoration. HEPCO is doing a great job. All the timber framing has been repaired. Insulated roof panels have been installed. All doors and windows have been put back in their original locations. The exterior siding is being painted readying it for installation. The stairs are roughed in at their original location. Interior wall boards are being installed. The foundation is being repointed. It is exciting to see the progress that the men are making. We are very appreciative that the guys working on the building have developed an appreciation for the history of the Elias Church. They are very sensitive to doing the job as accurately as possible and with great care. I will do my best to keep this web site updated with these journal entries and with new photos. If you subscribe to this blog you will automatically get updates when I add new photos or information. Keep the faith.