One of the things that has concerned a lot of folks, in Newbury and Newburyport, MA, is the rumored removal of the weathervane on the top of First Parish Church in Newbury (the beautiful New England Church right across the border from Newburyport on Rt. 1A–see previous post).
Yes, that particular rumor is true. My friends at First Parish tell me, the weathervane did indeed come down. And if it could be worth the kind of money I might imagine it could be, my response would be, “For goodness sakes do not put it back up there. Sell it at auction, it could receive an unbelievable amount of money, and put up a replica instead.”
Why, someone could ask.
Weathervanes, if real, can be unbelievably valuable, and have been stolen from the tops of New England churches and barns for years. I kid you not.
“That is what happened to a weather vane depicting the archangel Gabriel that was stolen in 2003 from White Church in Crown Point, N.Y. It was taken to Fred Giampietro, a folk art dealer in New Haven, who recognized it at once. The theft is being investigated.” From a story in the New York Times, by the Associated Press, August 2007.
“It is ”deceptively simple” to steal vanes, said Samuel Pennington, publisher of The Maine Antique Digest. Vanes turn on a spindle and need only to be lifted inches to remove them..” From another story in the New York Times, July 1988.
“Sometimes the thieves’ ingenuity has been almost as quaint as their plunder. It has been reported that in several cases they hired helicopters to pluck their booty..” from a story in Time Magazine, December 1970.
This has obviously been something that’s been going on for some time. In fact in my brief Googling, I found a reference to it by Homer Simpson (yes, really) and a book on the premise by the Hardy Boys (I kid you not again).
The sale of the First Parish Church weathervane at auction could help keep the church open for another few years, as they continue their struggle to keep spiritually alive.
In the meantime, it would be great if the church could put a preservation restriction on the building, the way Old South Church did in Newburyport, MA. It would also be great, not only if the community rallied round to help preserve this iconic piece of architecture, but also for the church to put the community’s mind at rest, that in the name of “going green,” the historic integrity of this historic landmark would not be compromised.