For the first time in nearly 40 years, the Oysterville Church is closed to the public. Gone is the “Church Open” sign that hangs next to the old double doors. Restoration work on the historic 1892 structure is in progress — the most extensive refurbishing work undertaken on the building since 1980, shortly after its acquisition by the Oysterville Restoration Foundation (ORF).

Like other old wooden buildings in the wet Northwest, maintenance of the historic church is ongoing, but for the last several years, more extensive repairs have been required. Through donations and grants, particularly from the Oregon-based Kinsman Foundation, a new roof, new front porch and ramp, new gutters, repainting of the building’s exterior and of the picket fence that encloses the churchyard have been completed in the past two years.

At the present time, the church is closed while the old wooden windows are being rebuilt, an undertaking that ORF will pay for through donations and fundraising. Overseeing the project is ORF Board member Paul Staub.

“We consulted the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation Projects,” says Staub. “This is the basic guide when doing work on historic buildings and, with those guidelines in mind, the condition of each window in the church was examined.”

Numerous windows exhibited considerable rot in the wood sashes and the three south side windows were found to contain extensive deterioration to the frames and sills. A Portland window manufacturer will duplicate the original, historic sash moulding profile so that all the windows — original and rebuilt — will match. Pulley hardware for the old-fashioned, double-hung windows will be reused.

Wallpaper will be next

As soon as the window project is complete, the wallpaper project will begin. “That will involve removing the pews from the church and storing them elsewhere so that a scaffolding can be erected inside the building. Both the ceiling paper and the wallpaper will be replaced, again thanks to a generous grant from the Kinsman Foundation,” according to ORF Board member Martie Kilmer who is in charge of that portion of the restoration.

Kilmer, an interior designer in Portland, has been working for several months to choose just the right paper. “I looked at old photographs of the interior, thanks to Judy Heckes Stamp who was married there in the 1950s and actually had some colored photos. I also consulted with the residents of the community who remember the rationale involved in choosing the present paper, and I took into consideration what audiences and congregations have been used to for the past forty years,” she says.

Several heritage wallpapers with designs from the 1870s to 1890s were considered. The final choice for the walls is a pattern called “Willow” from 1874 and an even earlier style of embossed paper (1860s) will be used for the ceiling. “It can be painted to match the wallpaper, and even re-painted if we ever have another leak,” says Kilmer. “But with our new roof, improved flashing, and new gutters, that seems highly unlikely.”

The window project is expected to be completed by early March, just in time for the church to reopen briefly for two long-scheduled weddings. Within a few days thereafter, the interior ceiling and wallpaper project will begin. The building will remain closed to the public until mid-April.

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