After considerable preparation and planning (and waiting for the ground to freeze in this bizarre winter), Crane Day came on January 20, 2016.
The early morning temperature was 17°F and a fierce cold wind whipped up the hill. Preservation Timber Framing (PTF) gently lowered the pieces down, starting from the top:
- first the Upper Lantern, which was laid to rest intact on a trailer;
- then the large Lower Lantern, which was set on the ground for later disassembly;
- then the huge rigging timbers that had been applied for the Tower Top Takedown last September;
- then the bell, raised vertically out of its long-time home in the Belfry and placed on its own trailer for transport to Nottingham; and
- then finally some of the larger timbers from the Belfry itself.
The slow, tedious disassembly and documentation work then continued another two weeks or so after crane day.
All the Tower Top elements are now safely stored at PTF's facility in Nottingham. The major work to repair and restore the Top will mostly take place over next winter. PTF's experts will reuse every element possible, but most pieces will have to be freshly crafted using the decayed originals as models. They'll even seek out the same species of wood as used originally (mostly white oak), and mimic the old carpentry methods.
If all goes according to the current construction—and fundraising—plans, the team will rehabilitate the base of the Tower in the Spring and early Summer of 2017 (along with working on the roof and rest of the timber frame). Then towards the end of that Summer the restored Tower Top will be returned to the site, reassembled, and flown back to its proper home on top of the Tower Base.
First Parish's Pastor Dr. Rev. Deborah Roof is very much looking forward to pulling the long rope at the foot of the Tower staircase to ring the glorious swinging bell for the first time in decades.