UCC of Conway approves plan to rebuild chapel after 2017 tornado

Franklin County

CONWAY, Mass. (WWLP) – Plans have been finalized to rebuild Conway’s historic United Congregational Church, which was destroyed by a tornado in 2017.

The UCC of Conway has approved a plan to build a new chapel on the site where the old church stood.

In February of 2017, an EF-1 tornado touched down in Conway, tearing up trees and destroying homes and buildings.

The tornado caused severe structural damage to Conway’s United Congregational Church, which was built in 1885.

“So for a while we held out hope that at least part of it could be saved but the very tall bell tower had pulled about five inches away from the building and twisted, which compromised all of the internal structure of the building,” said Reverend Candi Ashenden of the UCC of Conway.

Ashenden told 22News, the insurance settlement will allow their small but mighty congregation to build a two-story chapel.

“So we’ll have a mechanical room underneath with the public space, a chapel that seats 40, on the main street level so you’ll be able to see it coming in and out of town,” Ashenden added.

One neighbor who’s a member of the congregation and owns a gift shop just across the street from the church told 22News the tornado hit with no warning with wind speeds as high as 110 miles per hour.

“All of a sudden we were in the midst of a tornado with no warning, nothing just bang,” said Tea at Two Owner Eileen Schneider. “When we got up to survey the damage the next day we had lost the upper story of our house and had lost the roof on the shop, and there was debris everywhere just amazing you know not having ever lived through anything like that. And who expects a tornado in New England in February.”

Reverend Ashenden told 22News, they hope to break ground in spring of 2020 and if everything goes smoothly they hope to reopen by that Christmas.

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