Gary Roccograndi and the Forty Fort Meeting House Project
The first European settler in the area came from Connecticut in the late 18th century. In 1768 public lands were set aside in the area for churches by the Susquehanna Company, but because of the Yankee-Pennamite Wars and the American Revolution actual building of the churches was delayed by over 30 years. An unfinished meetinghouse nearby was destroyed after the Battle of Wyoming in 1778.
Joseph Hitchcock of New Haven, Connecticut, who also designed the Old Ship Zion Church in Wilkes-Barre, designed the meetinghouse. It was the first completed church used for religious services in the area. It was a Union Church with both Congregationalist (now Presbyterians) and Methodists worshipping in the church. By 1837 both groups had built their own churches, and the meetinghouse has been used rarely since. In 1869 the Forty Fort Cemetery Association was created by the Pennsylvania state legislature and the Association still owns the church and cemetery.
“The Meeting House is a fine example of Yankee Colonial architecture,” said Condron. “It has a symmetrical design that can be seen both outside and inside the structure.”
The exterior features 29 double-hung sash windows arranged in two tiers directly over each other on each of the four sides. Each window has 24 panes of glass.
On the north side of the building is an elegant palladium window, strategically placed to furnish light for the pulpit located on the inside of the wall. A five-paneled double door is centered on the south side, providing entry into the structure.
Inside, the visitor feels as if he’s been transported back to the 18th century. The handcrafted pine interior has never been painted. Normally light in color, the pine has darkened with age.
The focal point of the interior is a highly elevated pulpit directly opposite the entrance.
From here, such early ministers as Ard Hoyt, Cyrus Gildersleeve, Nicholas Murray and E. Hazard Snowden delivered their sermons to devout congregations.
Major restoraation of the house was needed hence Gary Roccograndi and Roccograndi Painting were contracted to restore this historic site.
As someone who grew up in Forty Fort knowing the history of the Forty Fort meetinghouse I aggressively pursued the general contractor when I learned of the restoration project. I was honored and excited when we were awarded the contract.
We as a company knew the extensive amount of work we were about to commence and took all necessary steps to make sure this project would be done to the precise standards of the Historical Society.
The procedures we used are parallel to the ones used in all of our wood home and siding renovation. These techniques are as follows:
1) Using low pressure carefully pressure wash entire exterior to remove loose and pealing paint and all organic and inorganic soils and debris.
2) Scrape all remaining loose and pealing paint.
3) Carefully inspect entire structure for any rotting or failed wood siding panels
4) Replace all failed panels as needed
5) We then thoroughly sand and patch any cracked or uneven areas using a ready patch compound and a 35 year acrylic caulking to return siding to bear a resemblance to its original state.
6) All windows were carefully inspected and all failed glazing was removed and re-installed
7) Apply an alkyd seal and grip primer to all prepped and repaired areas
8) Apply two coats of a 100% acrylic topcoat to the entire structure
2 CHIMNEY REPAIRS:
1) Remove top 8 courses of brick and masonry flute
2) Install new masonry flute and rebuild top 8 courses
3) Install birdcage and spark arrester
4) Saw cut all remaining mortar to ¼ inch sound substrate
5) Using type s non shrink mortar re-point chimneys
6) Apply a 10 year siloxane masonry water proofer to both structures
7) Using copper flashing re-flash the base of both chimneys
INTERIOR PLASTER REPAIR:
1) Cut out and remove all failed plaster
2) Using a self-leveling plaster of paris compound all failed areas were repaired to bear resemblance to original workmanship.
Bohlin Cywinski Jackson goes on to recommend after The Forty Fort Meeting House project :
We are pleased to recommend the Roccograndi Co. and Gary Roccograndi. Their work on the historic Forty Fort Meeting House, which included exterior painting and preparation, wood siding and trim replacement, brick chimney replacement and flashing, and interior plaster repair, replacement, and painting was thorough and professional.
The Forty Fort Meeting House, constructed in 1807, is the oldest surviving place of worship in the Wyoming Valley and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Naturally, with a building of this significance. both the Forty Fort Meeting House Preservation Committee and we were anxious when it came to selecting a contractor to perform the renovation and restoration work. We have been extremely pleased with the outcome and the quality of work performed by the Roccograndi Company.
Pictures of the finished project can be found on the Facebook page here.