In Narragansett, Boon Street Presbyterian Church is rising

A Google Maps view of the property before reconstruction began in 2021. The old stone tower was all that was left of the old church, which had been turned into a garage.Peter DeMarco for the Boston Globe

When architect and developer Craig Miller stumbled across the dilapidated property five years ago while vacationing with his family, he had no idea what he was looking at. “It had a flat roof and a tower. I thought it was a fire station,” he said.

Intrigued, he called the phone number on the sales panel. “The broker called me back, he showed me a picture of what it was, and I said, ‘Oh, we have no choice. We have to hand it over as a church,” said Miller, president of the Waterfield Design Group of Winchester, Mass.

Now the building has been resurrected, in a sense. And on August 29, as construction drew to a close, the most iconic element of the old church was restored.

As dozens of people watched, cellphone cameras at the ready, a giant crane lifted the 9,000-pound, 13-foot-tall belfry and 10,500-pound, 29-foot-tall shingled spire off the ground at the site , and maneuvered them into place atop the tall granite tower.

A small crowd of people gathered to watch the belfry be placed atop the stone tower on August 29, 2022, one of the final stages in the rebuilding of what was once Boon Street Church in Narragansett. PETER DEMARCO FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

While the exterior is a near-replica of the original church, Miller has made some major changes inside: the building will house a pair of luxury condominiums instead of a new congregation.

Marketed as “114 Boon Street Narragansett,” the condos will feature solar panels, elevators, covered balconies, open floor plans, and 12-foot ceilings. One of the units, with stunning views of Narragansett Bay just down the street, could fetch $3-4 million.

While some are upset that the building is no longer being used as a church, most locals embraced the project, understanding that Miller had no obligation to honor the church’s history or preserve the church’s appearance. property, as it is just outside of Narragansett. official historic district.

“This plot could have been developed into so many different things that wouldn’t have made people happy,” said Vincent Indeglia, a Narragansett planning board member for 13 years. “Then comes someone like Craig who wants to do this unsolicited. He’s like a lottery ticket that you scratch and win $5 million.

From a single grainy photo of the church taken around 1885 and a simple architect’s sketch from 1874, Miller dove into the project. Construction began last year and accelerated this spring.

A drawing of Boon Street Presbyterian Church, circa 1874.Photo to hand out
A final concept design for the 114 Boon Street Narragansett project, where the exterior is a near-replica of the old Boon Street Presbyterian Church, but the interior will house two luxury condominiums.Courtesy of Waterfield Design Group

Miller commissioned a Chicago metal shop to recreate the church’s 5-foot ornate copper cross. He reused 5,000 feet of timber flooring from a century-old Taunton mill and located the church’s original herringbone timber entrance doors. Each window plan has been crafted to look like it’s from the 19th century, with Miller going so far as to include three “dummy” windows that match those in the old photograph, but are bricked up inside as they are located on the middle floor.

The building’s masonry – blocks of pink and orange-hued granite believed to have come from a quarry in Westerly – has been restored to its original luster through repeated washings and weeks of repointing work by an array of stonemasons, which left a lot of stone visible inside to serve as a link to the past.

Although there is no bell in the belfry, residents can climb the steep stairs to admire the city, and there will be LED lighting that can glow in different colors. “If the Red Sox win the World Series, we can make it blue and red,” Miller said.

Architect and developer Craig Miller, president of the Waterfield Design Group of Winchester, Massachusetts, stands on the rooftop of his Boon Street project in Narragansett, RI in July 2022.Peter DeMarco for the Boston Globe

Miller plans to live with his family in one of the units. Does he think people will ring his doorbell on Sunday morning, expecting to be allowed in?

“One of the neighbors suggested we have services, like at Easter,” he said. “Me and my family, we have a religious background. We work a lot in Haiti and Ecuador with missions, with an orphanage. So for our family to have a connection with a faith-based building, that works really well for us.

This faith was tested while working on the Boon Street project. There have been many delays – Covid, clearance issues and supply chain shortages among them. And, more recently, the elevation of the belfry almost did not take place.

First there was an unexpected problem with the top of the concrete tower – which lost all morning. Then the crew wasted a few more hours searching for an essential drill bit. They managed to raise the base of the belfry, but when the sun started to set it looked like they simply lacked daylight to get the wooden shingle spire. at the top.

“I think he did the right thing in bringing this back because there are a lot of memories here,” said onlooker Merrick Cook Jr., 82, of Narragansett, who followed the construction. “It will go up.”

At 7 p.m., Miller and his structural engineer, Mike Grafe, performed a final check to see if the tow lines were secure. Crane operator Brent S. Dexter received the signal and the last piece was lifted off the ground – very, very slowly. A minute later, the remaining crowd erupted in applause – the belfry was full.

So does the implausible resurrection of the Boon Street Presbyterian Church.

Raising the belfry on the 114 Boon Street Narragansett project in Rhode Island
The belfry is elevated at the old reconstructed Boon Street Church in Narragansett, which is being converted into condos. (Video by Steve Osemwenkhae)

Comments are closed.