The Berkshire Eagle
By Clarence Fanto, Eagle correspondent
Oct 22, 2020
LENOX — Against a sun-dappled autumnal palette, religious and political leaders Thursday celebrated the completion of a three-year, $600,000 renovation project at the historic Trinity Episcopal Church.
The ceremony adjacent to the 1886 church marked the opening of a handicapped-accessible ramp into the parish house, a gathering place next to the church for social events, lectures and community meetings. Five new parking spaces were added, with landscaping planned for next spring.
The project included restoration of an original Tiffany window taken apart and reassembled to fit into the ramp’s doorway.
It also marks the 30th anniversary year of the Americans with Disabilities Act, noted the Rev. Michael Tuck, the church pastor. The civil rights law barring discrimination based on disability was approved by Congress and signed by President George H.W. Bush in July 1990.
The “Faith in the Future” capital campaign to fund the overall project was augmented by $154,000 from the town through two voter-approved Community Preservation Act grants, as well as $97,000 from the Massachusetts Historical Commission.
“It’s been a long journey,” Tuck told the socially distant crowd gathering outside the parish house, “and it’s great to have some unadulterated good news right now.”
Bishop Douglas Fisher of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts saluted Tuck for his “wonderful leadership” not only in Lenox, but in the diocese, “especially in this time of the pandemic. He’s been on a team of people that’s really helped folks with staying safe through all of our 51 churches from the Berkshires through Worcester County.”
Citing the recent installation of Wi-Fi throughout the campus, Tuck observed that “throughout this campaign, we wanted to do more than just restore and preserve the buildings. We also need to make sure these buildings work for us as 21st-century communities. This turned out to be an incredible blessing” for remote Zoom and streamed services.
He cited the town, the state Historical Commission, and parishioners Heather Heim and Steve Peters, co-chairs of the campaign committee, and “the incredible support we got from the wider community. That was one of the most touching parts of this whole process for me, to see the impact that we have beyond what we really expect out of our congregation.”
Since the project began in 2018, the church’s west and south walls were restored and the bell tower’s chimes that ring on the hour were reawakened after four years of repair.
“The goal of the ramp was to make the parish hall space more functional for the congregation and the people of Lenox,” Tuck said this week. “What’s hit home for me is that when we come out of the pandemic, we’ll have a deeper appreciation for public gathering spaces. We’ll be glad to be able to offer this kind of location and space to a community that will be really eager for it.”
State Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, described the renovations as “a labor of love for so many, for so long. The town of Lenox has always stepped up for historic preservation. The community is what makes this project very special.”
Referring to “the challenge of simply being together right now,” state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, stressed “the importance of signaling inclusion, that everyone is welcome here. It comes in simple steps and big gestures, and all that is captured by this beautiful ramp. I do love this balance of updating for accessibility and keeping a nod to our traditions and our most foundational structures.”
Among the leaders commended for their support during the ceremony, Tuck pointed out Frederick Keator, managing partner of The Keator Group financial planners, whose father, George, was the first permanent deacon at St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church in Lenox.
Also honored were Trinity Church Administrator Eileen Mahoney, contractor Paul Giardina of All-Star Excavation, landscape architect Rob Akroyd of Greylock Design Associates, architect Robert Harrison of Berkshire Design and Bradley Architects, Allegrone Construction and parishioner Claudia Wells.
More restoration work is planned for next year, including retiling the front porch of the parish house, restoring the rectory porch and another portion of the church’s south wall, as well as dealing with “urgent roofing issues that have come to light which also need to be addressed to prevent further damage,” said Trinity Church Administrator Eileen Mahoney.
Episcopalian church services in Lenox date to 1793; the commonwealth of Massachusetts chartered Trinity in 1805, and the first building to house the congregation, similar to a colonial meeting house, was constructed in 1818 at 33 Church St.
During the Gilded Age, wealthy cottagers funded the construction of the current church, a notable example of Romanesque architecture, at Kemble and Walker streets. Trinity is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The cornerstone was dedicated in 1885 by former President Chester A. Arthur. The parish house was completed in 1896, a gift of John E. Parsons. Among the early parishioners were Edith Wharton, Fanny Kemble and George Westinghouse, as well as George and Sarah Morgan of Ventfort Hall.