For the better part of two years residents of Egremont, MA and congregants of the historic First Congregational Church of South Egremont have struggled to find a solution when it comes to the future of the 187-year-old building. Preservation efforts have included everything from fundraising and private sales to former congregants attempting to ask the town to accept the church as a donation last May according to a 2019 article in the Brattleboro Reformer. Still, the historic church remains up for sale. Recently, uncertainty surrounding the church’s future has given way to unique ideas for the building’s potential use, “I have often thought, if I had my druthers, I’d make going to church a blast” says Marcella De Simone, a local resident who is seeking to turn the church into a possible space for children to use interactively with big blue blocks from Imagination Playground. “Now I have a chance to realize that dream.”
“I got the idea from watching my son play with these blocks at a children’s museum,” Marcella recalls. “Children played with the blocks for hours. They’d make friends, build together in small groups, and when they needed blocks that were being used by others, would cooperate and negotiate with the other children. This often resulted in all the children pooling resources, playing together, and building something they all loved.”
Soon, Marcella began to believe just how special these big blue blocks could be for the development of young minds and bodies, and how exposure to them could help foster a deeper respect for each other. “I think it’s important for parents and caregivers to have time to let their children play together while they talk to each other – maybe even with a coffee!” Marcella has started a GoFundMe campaign to help realize her vision to make new use of the church’s large main area, kitchen and meeting spaces. “I want to combine my two passions: creating special play spaces for children as well as a social environment for their parents and caregivers, and to restore a beautiful community church.”
The church was built in 1833 and is located within a portion of town on the National Register of Historic Places. Over the last two decades it has sold parcels of land both privately and publicly including to the local fire department in 1996. Despite her earnestness to see the church transformed into a space for children, De Simone holds no pretense when it comes to the potential restoration efforts involved as part of her dream, “Every inch of the structure needs something done to it in order to make it safe for children.”
However difficult the potential task may be, Marcella’s ambition and love for the local area remains resolute. “I don’t want to see a developer buy the property only to tear this historic church down, diminish the charm of the area, and change the heart of South Egremont forever,” Marcella says. “The resources exist. There are many people who live in the area who would like to see our church restored and rehabbed so it’s safe for children to play in.” Ultimately, Marcella seeks to preserve the historic accuracy of the structure, upgrade the meeting spaces and kitchen as well as create a space for community events, including contra dance, yoga and meditation classes, community coffee hour and more. “I hope this will truly become a space to elevate mind, body and spirit for us all – children and adults alike.”
All information in this article sourced from archived articles from The Berkshire Eagle and Brattleboro Reformer at www.reformer.com/stories/voters-to-decide-whether-struggling-church-will-be-donated-to-egremont,562533?