Like most men, Charles was not content with the subdued life of retirement when it came. At first, Edith, Charles’s wife, found difficultly in having her husband at home and meddling with the household affairs that she had adeptly managed on her own for decades. “I needed something to do to keep me out of trouble,” Charles sheepishly confesses. Then a project idea struck him.
Charles was born in and never left the town of Riegelsville, just south of Easton. The quaint town was home to a local store, hotel/restaurant and a few churches – one of which Charles faithfully attended for 70 years -- St. John’s Reformed Church. The structure, built in 1872, is made out of local stone. Charles always liked stonework and thought that building a mini replica of the church would be a challenge – and keep him out of trouble.
He commenced his project with careful study of the building. He took measurements of the actual site and meticulously noted and photographed the building to construct the exact model.
His next task was to build the walls to scale and he used plywood. He then went down the Delaware River to a local quarry that originally supplied the church with the stone exterior. Charles lugged buckets of scrap rock from the quarry. He cut them with his table saw and cemented them onto the plywood shell using 160 pounds of mortar mix. For the stained glass windows took photographs, shrunk them to size and printed them out on plastic before placing them in the window openings.
Refusing to skimp on details, Charles replicated the inside of the church. This laborious task included creating little wood pieces for the pews, balcony, altar, organ pipes, as well as painting piano keys on the little wood organ and page numbers on the hymn board. The interior finishing touch was the placement of the red-headed pastor who led the church. Charles finished his model with asphalt shingles and an intricate wood bell tower steeple as ornate as the real thing.
All told, the replica is estimated to weigh 400 pounds and stands almost four feet tall. He estimates that he spent over 220 hours on the project over the course of almost two years.
For almost twenty years the model church was showcased in Charles and Edith’s sunroom. Recently, the Slamps decided that it was time to downsize and rid themselves of house chores and maintenance. The couple decided to move into Traditions of Hanover, in Bethlehem, but under one condition – that he could bring his prized replica church. The request was enthusiastically approved, and Traditions of Hanover agreed to make a home for it on their third floor library. The only problem was transporting it.
Charles loved building things because he found peace in the quiet focus of his projects as well as the satisfaction of its completion. He now has new friends to share it with.