Grace Episcopal Church in Newton is seeking nearly $1.5 million in community preservation grants to repair and restore its 19th-century bell tower, a landmark advocates say is at risk of collapsing and likely will need to be torn down without the city’s financial support.
The church’s proposal went before the Newton Community Preservation Committee Sept. 15, and city officials now are considering whether the tower — as private property of a religious organization — provides enough tangible public benefits to receive aid through the Community Preservation Act.
Advocates said the tower at Grace Church not only poses a safety risk but also is important to locals for its visual appeal and the sound of its bells. The church hosts many events for public groups, they said, and was cited in the surrounding area’s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
“This is really a historic preservation project,” said Leah Gassett, a member of the church’s governing board, in an interview. “Like other historic preservation projects, it has the benefit of maintaining that landmark in the community, and the neighborhood, as a major defining feature.”