Month: February 2017

The Spice of First Church

Spicer Ramsay, First Church’s oldest member, has completed many projects over the years as both a volunteer and the Property Manager.   Here are just a few of the highlights he described to me in a 2-hour interview soon to be available in the archive.


One of the first projects he completed was a rearrangement of the choir loft. Originally wood paneling was even across the loft so that only the heads of a standing choir could be seen. There was also a 1.5 ft. open space behind the organ that anyone could potentially fall into. When the organ was replaced in 1954 Spicer and a few friends sawed the tall barriers in half and arranged them to protect the choir from tripping into the “abyss.”


The abyss.


Original panels at full height (center/L) next to spiced up panel (R)


Altered panel protecting the choir from falling

His next big project was the renovation of the basement restrooms in 1964. Apparently the men’s restroom was still using original plumbing and, as many of you know, choir practice is not easy on the pipes. In the 1970’s he worked with a local high school wood shop teacher to modify the basement. They made all of the cabinetry, enclosed the two classrooms, and replaced the lighting and flooring.


Spicer’s namesake dining hall is the location of his earliest memory at the church, sleeping on a pallet through his mother’s meetings.

Spicer got formally got involved with the building as Property Manager after John Pownell passed him the baton soon after the retrofit was completed. With the assistance of a few contractors John and Spicer finished the interior work. Most notably the dynamic due re-plastered and repainted the sanctuary and the Narthex.


To hide the rough edges around the doors left by the retrofit crews, Spicer made the decorative lintels over both entrances. He also added the brass rail.

Other miscellaneous woodworking projects include the trophy frame over the kids robes outside of the choir room near the drinking fountain, the cabinets with the inset glass panes in the basement, Elena’s step stool at the pulpit, and a panel in the Narthex, think you can find which one?


These are just a handful of the many improvements Spicer has made to First Church. Next time you see him please be sure to thank him for all of the hard work he’s put into caring for this building. It definitely shows!

Metal Detected

A few weeks ago the church had a boom lift parked right outside. The city permitted the lift to block the bike lane on 3rd St. and the street parking on Cedar Ave. for only two days. Unfortunately, it happened to be raining sporadically those days so our team had to construct a little enclosure so that they could conduct their survey.


Before the boom lift was delivered we met with conservators from Rosa Lowinger and Associates to examine the interior of the window to see what we could discover by potentially removing a small portion. The structural engineering team vetoed this idea citing that the wooden frame was, however inappropriately, carrying the load of the terracotta. So no information could be gained from the interior.


The following two days a boom lift was employed on the 3rd St. and Cedar Ave. sides of the building to document every crack in the brick and terra cotta exteriors. Using a special metal detector called an Elcometer Protovale Imp metal detector, metal armatures were found at the connection points of the terra cotta blocks in the rose windows tracery (See prior post for schematics).


Corrosion of these interior armatures is a significant cause of cracking in the hollow blocks that cannot expand to accommodate the change of the size of the metal. Mapping the damage allows our team to locate the areas that are structurally compromised and helps them design an appropriate solution to mitigate the damage. Stay tuned for more details!


This is the first time we have been able to examine the north side because the trees were recently trimmed back.