SHREWSBURY: CUPOLA PAINTERS AT WORK

Rebecca Pruitt and Jorge Hernandez reinstalling one of the louvers for the cupola of Christ Church Episcopal in Shrewsbury.

By SARAH KLEPNER

Shrewsbury’s Christ Church Episcopal, one of the oldest buildings in Monmouth County, got a fresh coat of paint from top to bottom this month.

It took 15 people working six days a week for two weeks, and 30 gallons of paint, to freshen up the historic structure, which was built between 1769 and 1774.

The church, located at the southeast corner of Broad Street (Route 35) and Sycamore Avenue, has withstood abuse at the hands of man and weather from the days of American Revolution.

Billy Scalzo, structural repair contractor, at work amid cemetery headstones, above. Below, painted louvers ready for re-installation. (Photos by Sarah Klepner. Click to enlarge)

Soldiers in Washington’s army used a crown – now gone – atop the bell tower for target practice, but a member of the congregation who was prominent in the Revolutionary movement ensured that the building, which served as barracks for the American soldiers, remained safe, said Bob Kelly, parish historian.

The church was added to the National Register of Historic Structures in 1995, and was last painted in 1998, Kelly said.

Since earlier this year, Rebecca Pruitt, chair and sole member of the church’s property committee has overseen, and participated in, an extensive repair and maintenance project. That has included fixing damage from Hurricane Sandy to windows, doors, and the roof, as well as painting the whole exterior, including the bell tower and the removable shutters that protect the bell .

Pruitt, who learned about working on historic buildings from her father, brims with enthusiasm for the work and the people involved.

“It takes a community to keep this place going,” she said last week.

For instance, when funding for the $26,500 project fell short, Pruitt reached out to Benjamin Moore Paints, which agreed to donate $1 from every gallon of paint sold at Monmouth Building Center on Shrewsbury Avenue between now and September 15.

Contractor selection was based on attitude as well as experience. “It’s a subjective matter, there’s no checklist or set of official requirements,” Kelly said. The church needed “someone who is able to think outside the box,” Pruitt added.

The job went to Jorge Hernandez of Red Bank’s JAHC Complete Painting, who came with rope certification and so was able to do the rappelling necessary to reach the whole exterior.

Funds to pay for the work were mainly assembled by parishioners and matching grants from the Monmouth County Historical Commission, though church officials say they’re still several thousand dollars short and hope local residents will help out.

Pruitt also oversees an intervention program that engages youth who have been convicted of minor offenses by putting them to work around the property in lieu of jail time.