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Saving the Steeple: Historic Easton Church Plans Restoration
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EASTON, Pa. (WLVT) - The steeple at First United Church of Christ pierces the sky in Easton.

"East, west, north, south -- you can see the steeple from everywhere," said member Doreen Arnold. "When people are driving home from some place, they see the steeple, and they know they’re home.”

PBS39 went inside the iconic steeple Wednesday to get a rare perspective.

"Time after time you come up here, and you just wonder how they installed all this," said Doreen's husband Bob, who manages stewardship and finance at the church.

The steeple and church tower were built in the 1830's over the span of three years. The church last restored them almost 50 years ago -- and now, it’s time for another round.

"It's held up beautifully for all these years, but it needs some help now," said church historian Wendy Wandersee.

The congregation was established in 1745 from the German Reformed. The present building on Third Street came along 30 years later.

"It is a significant part of Easton's history. More importantly, I think it's a part of Easton’s identity," said Reverend J. Michael Dowd, the church's pastor. "You can't come into town without seeing it, so to restore it, I think, is an investment in history."

The church played a key role in the Revolutionary War when George Washington came to town.

"They had to move all the pews out, everything wholly, and they turned it into a hospital," Wandersee said, "and then, the next month, they moved out the soldiers and had an Indian treaty here."

Adding the steeple years later made the church even more significant as a place visitors and locals could pick out right away.

"Every single time I come up here, I'm just amazed as far as the structure itself, the size of the lumber, and how everything was custom," Bob Arnold said.

Over time, the steeple and clock tower have shown clear signs of age: chipped paint, rotten wood and a broken clock.

The main attraction within the clock tower is a 2,000-pound bell called the Centennial Bell, hoisted and placed in the steeple in 1876. It doesn’t work now, but it was rung on several historical moments, including the end of World War II, the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy, and the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The church is trying to raise $125,000 for the restoration, which would cover several tasks.

"We will be power-washing, looking at all the wood around the railing area and the steeple area and replacing any rotten wood that may be there," said Doreen Arnold, who chairs the Save the First Steeple Committee.

The church is also looking into a new way to ring the bells and avoid damage. Some of the bells have developed rust on the insides, and the bells will be turned to strike a different section.

A fully brass gear box for the clocks sits in the lowest of the steeple's three tiers. The restoration project includes a plan to synchronize the clocks with the chimes electronically -- and to finally fix the time on the four clocks in the tower.

It's a major project that requires a lot of money. The church is applying for grants to help with the cost, but members say it will take more than that.

"It's up to us now to preserve that piece of history, and we would like the community to help us do that," Doreen Arnold said.

"We just need to bring it back up to the glory that it deserves," Wandersee said.

To donate to the campaign and learn more, click HERE.