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Sunderland man builds miniature church replica

  • Sunderland carpenter Ken Kushi with his scaled-down replica of the First Congregational Church of Sunderland. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Sunderland carpenter Ken Kushi with his scaled-down replica of the First Congregational Church of Sunderland, on Wednesday. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Sunderland Carpenter Ken Kushi with his scaled-down replica of the First Congregational Church of Sunderland, May 24, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Sunderland Carpenter Ken Kushi with his scaled-down replica of the First Congregational Church of Sunderland, May 24, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • Sunderland Carpenter Ken Kushi with his scaled-down replica of the First Congregational Church of Sunderland, May 24, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—



For the Bulletin
Thursday, June 01, 2017

SUNDERLAND — A local carpenter has built a scaled-down replica of the First Congregational Church of Sunderland as homage to the church and its history.

“This is, physically, the same dimensions of the congregational church — except it’s one-inch to the foot,” said local Carpenter Ken Kushi, 70, standing in front of his almost 9-foot tall handmade church replica in the driveway of his Montague Road home.

Kushi’s replica was built in honor of the congregational church’s 300th anniversary. The church was established in 1717, a year before Sunderland was officially recognized as a town.

In total, the 70-by-48-inch plywood replica took about 200 hours to complete. It’s detailed down to a small steel bell that hangs in the church’s bell tower, real copper roofing, and a paper mache stained-glass window made by children in the church’s Sunday school. In place of asphalt shingles for the back part of the church, Kushi used sandpaper.

The replica was displayed on a float in the May 26 Memorial Day Parade.

Initially, the church’s board of trustees wanted a float built for the town’s 300th anniversary celebration next year, explained Kushi’s wife Carol, who sits on the board. Within about seven weeks of the Memorial Day Parade, though, the local carpenter decided to have it ready for the parade — working nine-hour days to make it happen.

“He’d go down after breakfast. I’d call him up for lunch. And then again for dinner,” Carol Kushi said.

‘Jack-of-all-trades’

Kushi, a self-titled “jack-of-all-trades,” has been a professional carpenter since graduating from Smith Vocational School’s carpentry shop in the mid-1960s — “other than two years I drove a trailer, and three years in the military,” Kushi said. These days, carpentry is a hobby, although he occasionally picks up freelance repair work referred by Andy’s and The Oak Shoppe.

A few years ago in 2014, he retired from a 16-year stint at Yankee Candle as Santa Claus. He also served in the Army during Vietnam, and built his house by hand in the 1970s.

In his basement workshop, Kushi has building materials stacked to the ceiling. Amidst the materials, ongoing projects, including a detailed replica Civil War-era “potato gun cannon,” sit in various stages of completion.

It was in the workshop over the course of about seven weeks that Kushi cut and pieced together the church model on a 10-inch table saw, assembling it outside in the driveway.

“I had to make small pieces, and I’ve still got them all,” Kushi said, stretching out his fingers with a laugh. In order to accurately depict the church, Kushi measured as much as he could from the ground, and counted clapboards for the building’s height.

The church project is a labor of love, and an homage to the church’s 250th anniversary when a member pulled a much smaller replica in a wagon during a parade.

“You show the love of the church by the detail,” Kushi said, quoting a friend and noting the historic church’s deep history in the town. “It’s pride in the type of work I do — whether it’s putting a handle on a shovel, or fixing an ax. I’m meticulous,” he said.