BERLIN - On the day after Easter, a house next to Kensington Congregational Church was knocked down to make way for a renovation project.
The house at 336 Percival Ave. was owned by the church, whose building dates back over 300 years to when present-day Kensington was a part of Farmington, said Allan Hall, chairman of the building committee at the church.
“If we didn’t address the needs of the future, like so many churches, we would eventually shrink,” said Hall.
The project is aimed at expanding the parish hall to connect with the church, and out over the property where the house was demolished, about 38 feet in both directions.
More parking, particularly for the handicapped, upgraded bathroom facilities and a renovated kitchen will also be added.
“The parish hall was dedicated in 1954 and we haven’t done any renovations to it since,” said Hall.
The house that was demolished dates to the 1950s, said Hall. He said the church bought it from the niece of a couple living it after they died.
Until the decision to demolish it, the house had been used as a youth center, which will now become part of the expanded parish hall, said Hall.
“It’s going to allow us to the do so much more,” said Hall.
Fortunato Construction Group is overseeing the whole process and conducted the demolition work, he added.
Members of the church were able to go through the house before demolition and take items they were interested in, while giving a free-will donation to the church, Hall said. Those funds went into the account for the project, budgeted at $1.9 million, he added, with about half of the money raised so far.
“We’ve received donations from the local membership, as well as, members from Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas,” said Hall, with the out-of-state donations coming from former members.
The church is calling the construction process “Easter to Advent,” with its expected completion date around Christmas.
The project began in 2015 with the congregation being asked what it needed and wanted in the expansion, said Hall.
The church was seeking the waiving of about $10,000 in permit fees, but the Town Council took no action on it, saying it had to determine if the town had granted waivers like it in the past.
Acting Town Manager Jack Healy said he sent a letter to the church asking for a more precise accounting of the fees, and as of last Tuesday was waiting for a response.
“There’s a lot of things that go on here beyond the members of the church,” said Hall, listing Boy Scout meetings, blood drives, the Festival on the Hill and A Night in Bethlehem.
The Festival on the Hill will still be held this year, though modified because of planned kitchen renovations, Hall said.
“It’s truly a community church,” he said.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.