Digging up the past while preserving for the future

Staff archeologist Katie Brauckmann shows the detail of what is believed to be the original gravel path that led to the west entrance of the church. Photo by Jackie Nunnery

by Jackie Nunnery

WEEMS—From its distinctive high-backed boxed pews and intricate triple-tiered pulpit to the impressive brick and stonework comprising the building’s 3-foot thick walls, Historic Christ Church stands as a testament to 18th century architecture and craftsmanship.

When nearly 300 years of rains and “rising damp” threatened the integrity of all that beauty and history, a project to improve drainage around the building evolved. The local treasure was registered as a National Historic Landmark in 1961.

According to Robert Teagle, executive director of the Foundation for Historic Christ Church, rising damp is a process in which ground water seeps into building materials like brick, mortar, stone, woodwork and plaster. A previous effort to address water damage was undertaken in 1967, but was ineffective and removed approximately 30 years later. Teagle said it is critical to protect the historic view, so they knew the solution was not going to be mechanical and would have to be buried underground.

A new project, initiated in the fall of 2021, will drain stormwater away from the building, ultimately abating the rising damp. Drainage ditches are being dug around the church and surrounding yard….

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