How can a former church be, quite literally, uplifted?
The spectacle of a church on stilts is too much for anyone to just drive by on Great Barrington’s Main Street. Developer Paul Joffe says that he’s had more people stopping to take photos and ask questions about the United Methodist Church project than any other he’s ever worked on.
Built in 1845, the former church is now in the process of being transformed into a home for a restaurant and retail spaces. As a bonus, it’s going to gain in stature—about six and a half feet in height.
How does a 120-ton church grow taller? Joffe says it takes about 14 hydraulic jacks to lift the building up eight feet, allowing his crew to build a much-needed new foundation for the structure. Once that is completed, the church will be lowered one and a half feet from its raised height, leaving it standing higher than before. After 150 years of settling, the building will be as straight and plum as it was when it was first built.
To celebrate the church’s rebirth, Joffe invited over 100 individuals to plant their own time capsules underneath the church in an event on Halloween. Joffe says that these are more personal than the usual time capsules—there were no restrictions on contents and no one’s capsule was inspected—and because of their placement so far below the footing, unlikely to be opened for centuries.
“Even if you knocked the building down and built another building, you still wouldn’t dig that deep,” Joffe says, speculating that the church might have a third coming in a few hundred years.