By Bethany Kosmider
CROWN POINT - The famous weathervane atop Crown Point's White Church has returned - kinda.
The valuable, historic weathervane that was stolen on Nov. 11, 2003, and was later found in New Haven, Conn., has a close replica now adorning the belfry tower.
The original weathervane, Gabriel, was sold in 2007 for $750,000to the very antique dealer who secured custody of it during its getaway travels from the law.
The White Church Association felt the possibility of the angel being stolen again was very real.
Having been given an offer for the weathervane, the members also felt the money could be used to help other organizations in Crown Point. The decision was born to relieve themselves of the chancy art piece in exchange for peace of mind and monetary gifts to organizations in Crown Point.
"It was our chance to help other organizations and at the same time have money to keep the White Church in good repair for a long time to come," said town historian Joan Hunsdon.
Hunsdon said the Gabriel Fund was established from the sale and the members of the association decided to gift $200 to each graduating student of Crown Point Central School every year from now on forward.
"We will also be donating each year to some historic preservation project or entity," said Hunsdon.
Hunsdon was proud to point out the new sign made of cypress wood by Danny Lee and the painting of the sign by Patti Grant.
"After Gabriel was taken, they built this sign that we now have on the front of the church," she said. "People have been wonderful."
Joan and her husband, Bill Hunsdon, knew they needed to replace the weathervane with a replica of Gabriel and began their search. Little did they know the search would end across the road from their home.
James Hunsdon, their son and an electrician by trade, decided to offer to build a replica Gabriel weathervane and began the process of building the parts to be welded. The measurements of the original, which were taken by Dan Lee several years prior, were used to make sure that the replica was exact.
After two weeks of work on the angel, James completed the weathervane and plans were about to start for the mounting of the masterpiece.
Being a large family, the Hunsdons rely on each other often and Bill knew his brother, Simeon Hunsdon, owned a large bucket truck. It was a pleasure for Simeon and his wife, Linda, to drive up from Fort Edward to assist in
he historic replacement of another weathervane for the White Church.
The task was completed by the angel's creator, James, in the bucket. Once the angel was mounted, it was a short time before the bucket was lowered and the weathervane drew curiosity from passers-by.
The original Gabriel, created out of iron by blacksmith William Henry Foster, was fashioned from 10 sheets of iron, riveted and welded together.
Placed atop of the first White Church in 1822, he remained until it was decided (around 1880) that the building had to be rebuilt as it was in such disrepair. It was dismantled and the new church was completed in 1883.
On June 28, 1945, the White Church was struck by lightening during a fierce storm and burned to the ground.
Pulled from the ashes unscathed, Gabriel was placed in a barn for safe keeping.
Several men from the neighborhood decided the church had to be rebuilt and gathering materials, they commenced the building on the third White Church.
The first corner was laid on Memorial Day in 1946.
For 57 years, Gabriel floated above the White Church with bugle in hand, turning every way the wind blew, adorning the rooftop of the historic White Church, until it met strangers in the night.
Stolen from the roof top with ladders borrowed from nearby neighbors, thieves made off with this valuable creation during a period of great interest in weathervanes that were bringing large amounts of money to those who sold them.