Francestown

Meeting House hit by lightning deemed stable

Historic building reopens for concert

FRANCESTOWN — After a lightning strike closed down the building for more than a week, the Old Meeting House was back open to the public on Sunday, just in time for a scheduled concert in the historic building.

On July 10 a lighting strike blew siding off of the Old Meeting House steeple and damaged a support rib extending from the steeple and into the structure. Since then, the building has been closed until the stability of the steeple was assessed. The building has been declared by a structural engineer to be safe to use, according to Old Meeting House Inc. President Steve Griffin.

Steve Quinn of Skyline Engineers in Ashburnham, Mass., helped to restore the Old Meeting House weather vane in 2007. Quinn was called in again last week to survey the damage. Quinn found that the bracing, steel plate and wood of the steeple were all sound, according to a press release issued by Old Meeting House Trustees on Sunday.

“One vertical rib is splintered and compromised, but diaphragms and cross-bracing are firmly attached,” OMH Trustee Greg Cope is quoted in the release. “The bell tower frame has one corner post also splintered, which weakens it somewhat.”

The structural engineer who assessed the damage, Ben Tirey of Peterborough, informed the trustees that the seven other ribs supporting the steeple, along with the other bracing, and good condition of the wood make the structure sound. The steeple, he said, could lose one vertical rib and still be stable. With that assurance, the Old Meeting House was able to open on Sunday for the Monadnock Music Community Concert Summer Festival.

Meeting House Trustees are currently making arrangements for the repair of the steeple, and expect the majority of the cost to be covered by insurance.

The Old Meeting House will host two programs this Saturday. At 10 a.m., there will be a talk on barn architecture, followed by a self-guided tour of area barns. Saturday at 7:30 p.m., the Bluegrass Gospel Project will hold a concert in the building. For more information about Old Meeting House programs and events, see francestownmeetinghouse.com.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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