By Matthew Sockol
MILLSTONE – A project that is restoring an historic structure dating back to the mid-1800s is continuing on Stagecoach Road in Millstone Township.
Restoration work is being performed on the Clarksburg Methodist Episcopal Church, which is the second oldest Methodist church building in Monmouth County. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“It is one of the last historic places left in Millstone Township,” Township Committeewoman Nancy Grbelja said.
The building, which no longer functions as a church, was purchased by the township in the late 1990s and had been used as a location for events and programs. Activities there were suspended after structural issues surfaced.
According to Grbelja and Pat Butch, the president of the Friends of Millstone Township Historic Registered Properties, issues with the former church have been known since 2010.
Butch cited a leaking roof and a sagging foundation that was caused by rotting wood as the primary issues with the building.
As reported by the Examiner in January, the roof was damaged by tropical storm Irene in 2011 and the foundation issues were the result of water leaking into the structure after the roof was damaged.
Butch and Grbelja credited the use of old-growth lumber from aged trees in the building’s construction for resulting in the damage being less severe than it otherwise might have been.
“If this was a newer building, it would probably be in worse shape than it is now,” Grbelja said.
In December 2015, a $250,000 grant for development and structural repairs to the building was approved by the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders.
Since that time, work on sill plates, wall studs and floor joists, which help maintain a structure’s foundation, have been completed, according to Butch, who said joints in the ceiling have been reinforced.
Work on the building’s roof, altar and steeple is continuing. Once that work has been completed, the floorboards, pews and altar, which had to be removed during the restoration, will be replaced.
“The restoration is long overdue and I can’t wait until the repairs are completed so we can continue using the building,” Grbelja said.
Butch and Grbelja praised contractor Bob Frizzell for retaining the historical features of the building.
Butch thanked Doreen Polhemus, the former township historian, for keeping and maintaining items from the church that had to be removed during the restoration.
Grbelja cited Butch, Polhemus and Township Historian Joann Kelty for their work in preserving history and providing a historical education to Millstone’s children. She also praised the volunteers of the Friends.
“The volunteers who are part of the Friends have been invaluable,” the committeewoman said. “They serve as a model to all other groups on how to get things done and their dedication and selflessness is unmatched.”
Grbelja and Butch estimated that the project will be completed between late 2016 and the spring of 2017.