WELLS — The historic bell atop the Congregational Church of Wells will soon ring again.
The church’s steeple, a focal point on Route 1, and its historic 1831 bell — cast by George Holbrook, an apprentice of Paul Revere, in Medway, Massachusetts — were removed in 2012 due to structural integrity issues. Following a five-year capital campaign, the church has installed a new steeple and the bell has been restored and is back in place.
“It was very emotional when I saw the bell,” said parishioner Nancy Worthley, who has been involved in the project. “When it first came down, it seemed like an insurmountable project. To look up and see the bell up there, it’s very moving.”
Jamie Bradish, president of the trolley manufacturing company Molly Corporation in Wells, led the restoration of the bell and management of the steeple project with help from his team and church member volunteers. They worked to restore the bell and design the new steeple, which was then built and came to Wells from Virginia, and was installed on June 12.
A community celebration is planned for Sept. 14, including a ringing of the bell 12 times at noon.
“This was a challenging task,” Bradish said. “When the bell came down in 2012 it needed considerable work. Seeing it restored and installed again in the steeple is exciting and deeply gratifying.”
While the old bell operated by a wheel and pulley system, this new bell will ring by an electronic hammer triggered electronically from below. Peter Masucci, a parishioner who has led the capital campaign fundraising, said the church anticipates the bell will ring daily at noon.
“Everybody will know it’s noon,” he said.
The $500,000 capital campaign, which began in 2014, has raised over $450,000 to date. Funds are being used for the steeple project, and a variety of projects inside and outside of the church building, including new pews, carpeting, an organ pit, and improving ADA accessibility.
“We’re optimistic we’re going to reach our goal,” Masucci said. “It will be a real milestone for this community.”
The church’s interim Pastor David Hughes said the commitment and generosity of members of the church, community organizations and area businesses has “been extraordinary” throughout the project. Several church members skilled in carpentry, electrical systems, and plumbing, donated not only funds to help improve the building, but significant time and energy, he said.
“It really has lifted the morale of this church. Seeing that steeple put in place after such a long wait, this is quite an accomplishment,” he said. “It gathers the community together.”
Church members said the Congregational Church of Wells, first organized in 1642, is the oldest continually operating institution in town. The church supports several community and outreach programs including the Soup’s On meal program, the Ditty Box thrift shop, AA and Al-Anon meetings, Boy and Girl Scouts, a grief support group, and more. Sunday services are at 9:30 a.m. and all are welcome.
Donations to the church’s capital campaign can be made at www.gofundme.com/wells-maine-steeple-project.
Community members can also support the project through upcoming events:
• On Tuesday, July 23, Congdon’s After Dark’s “Tithing Tuesday” will benefit the Congregational Church. Ten percent of proceeds from the food truck park that evening will be donated. The park is open from 4 to 9 p.m. and the rain date is the following day.
• At 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 23, For the Love of Food and Drink will partner with the Congregational Church for a barbecue to be held at the church. There will be pulled pork, bacon wrapped chicken, coleslaw, potato salad, and desserts made by parishioners. The cost is $12 for adults and $6 for children. All are welcome to attend.
• A community celebration will take place on Saturday, Sept. 14, with a dedication ceremony including speakers, activities for families and children, a concert and more. Festivities will begin at 11 a.m. and the bell will ring 12 times at noon.