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Repairs to Immanuel Lutheran Church's Leaky Roof Nearly Complete, Rev. Says

By Shaye Weaver | August 25, 2015 8:50am
 Scaffolding at the church will come down by November, revealing a new slate roof and renovated wooden window frames.
Immanuel Lutheran Church
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UPPER EAST SIDE — At roughly 60 years old, the Immanuel Lutheran Church's roof had leaks, but none like the leak near its altar.

When congregants came forward for communion, a bucket was put in place to catch the water, drip by drip.

"That made it kind of easy to realize something had gone wrong with the roof," said the Rev. Gregory Fryer. "When we first started, the estimate of a new roof was $1.1 million. That's an awful lot of money for our congregation, though we had known this was on horizon."

With a bequest of $700,000 in its pocket from 2006, the 95-member church began its fundraising in 2010. After raising more than $350,000, construction began last summer and is now finally near completion. To celebrate, the church that sits at 122 East 88th St. is planning an open house for its neighbors in November.

"We are so eager to take the scaffolding down," Fryer said. "The cool thing about this project is that I think it's a good tribute to the past, and it was well done. It's going to be the kind of project that will benefit our church for generations to come."

The original slate roof had wide horizontal bands of differing color slate, according to Fryer. To reproduce that look, the church installed similarly wide bands alternating in color between black and green.

Not only will the new roof provide shelter from the elements and a facelift of sorts, it will also provide warmth, according to Fryer.

In 1969, the church "suffered a calamity" when a company was doing excavation work for a department store a couple of blocks away, Fryer said.

"The vibrations from the dynamite shook the church in the wee hours and our immense plaster ceiling collapsed," he said. "It looked like a bomb went off in our church."

When the congregation had the money to rebuild its plaster ceiling, the church decided the money was needed more to purchase a parsonage. Because of that, the church went without the barrier that functioned as insulation, according to Fryer.

While the scaffolding is up, the church is also refurbishing its original wooden window frames from 1886, which have become worn down over time by the rain and ice. Once that is complete, the scaffolding will come down.

The church, built in the gothic style that was popular in northern Europe in the late 19th century, was established in early 1863. The building's 200-foot bell tower houses three bells, which are inscribed with the words "Faith," "Hope" and "Charity," according to the church's history. They were a gift to the congregation from the Empress of Germany in the late 1800s.

"We inherited a great church," Fryer said. "It was built by German immigrant workers here in Yorkville and they lived in tenement apartments. They had big families, lived a simple life and they built this church great. I'm honored by it every time I step foot into it."