Along a section of Middle Country Road in Middle Island that is dotted with commercial businesses and a few homes, one building that provides a reprieve from the “dull, boring, sameness of the 21st century,” according to members of the Bellport-Brookhaven Historical Society.
Where Middle Country Road meets Church Lane, a white building with a tall steeple stands apart from the rest. Originally built in 1837, the building was used as the Middle Island Presbyterian Church until it was abandoned by the congregation in 1966. Flash forward to 2009: The 34-member congregation of the Middle Island United Church of Christ, which previously worshipped in a rundown farmhouse, has raised the funds necessary to purchase the church and has been working ever since to restore it.
For its ongoing effort, the congregation was awarded the 2010 Robert H. Pelletreau Award in Historic Preservation by the Bellport-Brookhaven Historical Society. The honor comes with a $2,000 grant from the Post-Morrow Foundation, which aims to preserve the historical character of Brookhaven. The historical society hopes that with the recognition, the congregation will also have an edge in securing additional grants.
Victor Principe, the incoming president of the historical society, said at the award presentation on Sunday night, that the church building and its neighboring 18th century cemetery are “very important windows to history” that need to be saved.
Carol Blesser, a historical society trustee, said the society read through many applications for the award, but was moved by the congregation’s proposal to restore the church, which is on the National Register of Historical Places.
“It was a moving proposal that spoke to an incredible amount of work by this congregation of just 34 members,” she said. “So much of it is sweat work that can be vastly helped by this and more, and more grants.”