United Church of the First Born, which burned down in a 2007 fire, was rebuilt in a single day on Wednesday. It is believed to be the first modular church of its kind in New England.
Thirty members of United Church of the First Born set up lawn chairs on the congregation’s Monponsett Road property in Hanson on Wednesday morning and watched a new sanctuary go up in a single day.
The original church, which was built by nine adult congregation members and their children in 1974, was destroyed in an electrical fire Nov. 10, 2007. There were no injuries, but the congregation was left without a home.
Assistant Pastor John Miranda, who helped build the original church as a child, said congregation members soon realized building a new church would be expensive.
“The cost would have been a whole lot more than we can afford,” he said.
Then, Pastor Loretta Gomes realized the modular home design company that built her home in Middleboro three years earlier might be able to help.
“When the church burnt, they had spent a year looking at their options, looking at permitting and ended up totally frustrated with whole process,” said Don Shulman, president of Realty Development Associates, a modular home design company with offices in Bourne and Norton.
Church members raised money through collections and cookie dough sales, Miranda said. But Realty Development Associates, which works primarily in residential construction, had never designed a church, Shulman said.
“As far as anybody is aware, this is the only modular church in New England,” he said. “Everything we do ... is all custom-designed. While the task was a little different, the technique was already in place.”
By Wednesday afternoon, construction workers had assembled the exterior walls of the sanctuary complete with insulation and wiring.
Modular construction, in which sections of a home are built in a factory, then trucked to the building site and assembled on the field, accounts for about one of 10 new homes built in the Northeast, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
The homes are typically less expensive and easier to build quickly. Some critics question their structural integrity, but Shulman said the company builds parts that are 30 percent stronger than regular homes to help weather the trip from the factory to the work site.
The United Church of the First Born was built in a Westchester Modular Homes factory in Wingdale, N.Y., then loaded onto a truck for the ride to Hanson on Tuesday, Shulman said.
Unlike the old church, the new structure is up to modern fire and accessibility codes.
Miranda said his mother, who helped build the original church, was happy to see it go up a second time.
“She cried and everything else,” he said. “It was a very special moment."
The Patriot Ledger