LAKE OF BAYS, ON – A community campaign to save a local historic church has been successful.

Earlier this summer it appeared the St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Grassmere would be torn down as churchwardens could no longer manage the maintenance and related costs of looking after the 130-year-old facility.

But thanks to the efforts of the Friends of Grassmere a solution has been found to move the church to nearby Hillside Farm where it will be preserved and used for weddings hosted at the Hillside Dairy Barn.

Danielle Van Eyck has been the catalyst for saving the building and says it will take a lot of work to get it moved this fall.

“It was a fair amount of work and a scramble, but we managed to pull it off,” she said about securing the building. Now there is a Go-Fund-Me account raising money to help pay for the move, which will see it driven some two kilometres to the east along Highway 60.

The biggest challenge is the brickwork will have to be removed, but as Van Eyck pointed out, those were added in 1913 ahead of a wedding at the church. After removing some of the bricks it turns out there is a very nice white siding underneath that has aged well. While the building could have been moved with the bricks in place, the extra cost to brace and secure the outer portion would have been a problem.

“We found an over four-inch air gap between the brick and the original wood building,” she said. “It does look amazing underneath.”

The land where the church currently sits has been taken over by the Township of Lake of Bays, which happens by law for deconsecrated properties that have attached cemeteries. The town will now maintain the cemetery, which has had burials as recently as this summer.

From the outside the negotiating between the Friends of Grassmere and churchwardens showed some friction, but once the facts were established and some possible options explored both sides worked toward a solution.

“They are happy it is going to be moved as well,” offered Van Eyck. “It is a tough decision for them. They are looking at retiring and the main concern with the church was finding new leadership roles.”

Van Eyck and her group have already provided $10,000 as a good-faith down payment to the church. The $10,000 being raised through the Go-Fund-Me is to help pay for the rebricking and other related move costs.

The Jerrett’s of Hillside Farm will be paying the fees such as reinforcing the building, township applications, MTO permit, traffic control, moving Bell and Hydro lines, a hydro hookup and a new foundation on the Hillside property.

At the Grassmere site, the churchwardens plan to erect a 14′ granite cross where the building once stood. An offline fundraising campaign is also in progress to raise funds for the cross.