Archive for Friday, December 9, 2005

Church gets historic designation

Status will help leaders’ fundraising efforts

December 9, 2005


The Lawrence church attended by young Langston Hughes has been named to the National Register of Historic Places.

The new status should help leaders of the St. Luke AME Church, 900 N.Y., in their fundraising efforts to preserve the nearly century-old building.

"We are extremely happy and pleased," the Rev. Verdell Taylor said Thursday when he heard the news. "It's something we have been striving for, certainly since 2001, but even when I came here as a pastor since 1995, I was asked to look into National Register status."

The African Methodist Episcopal congregation got its start in 1862 during the Civil War. Taylor said a building was intended for near 10th and New Hampshire streets, but plans changed after nearly two dozen Union soldiers - most of them black - were slaughtered near the site during Quantrill's Raid in 1863.

"There were people around the era of the Civil War with a vision for the future," Taylor said of the church's early members. "At that time, it was really difficult, because we didn't have a lot; the opportunities weren't there."

St. Luke AME Church pastor, the Rev. Verdell Taylor Jr., stands before the church, 900 N.Y., which has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

St. Luke AME Church pastor, the Rev. Verdell Taylor Jr., stands before the church, 900 N.Y., which has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The current building was constructed in 1910. Not long after, Hughes began attending services with his foster aunt known as "Auntie Reed." He later wrote about his experiences in the church in the book "The Big Sea."

In a 1960 radio interview, he said those early days at the church had influenced his writing style.

"I was very much moved, always, by the rhythms of the Negro church, of the spirituals, of the sermons," Hughes said. "And when I began to write poetry, that influence came through."

Bill Tuttle, an American studies professor at Kansas University, said he became aware of the building's significance - and the church's history - during 2002 celebrations of Langston Hughes' birth. He joined efforts to raise money to preserve the building.

"The more I learned about the church, the more I thought it was crucial to preserve its history," Tuttle said. "We fought long and hard to get this ... but it seemed to be an open-and-shut case to us all along."

The new addition means Lawrence has 31 properties on the National Register, plus another seven districts - including downtown - and a national landmark in Haskell Indian Nations University.

More than $135,000 has been raised for building preservation efforts, including $100,000 from the federal government. But repairs to the church's roof and walls could cost more than $1 million, architects have said.

National Register properties are eligible for state tax credits - credits the nonprofit church can "sell" to a broker to raise money for restoration efforts. The federal status will also help St. Luke attract grants.

"It's coming along," Taylor said of fundraising efforts. "It's coming slowly, but it's coming along. It's going to be a long process, because it's going to be a lot of money."


Ragingbear 12 years, 2 months ago

Yet another eyesore will choke out our resources and affect further developement.

Good thing that he didn't have a spot where he spit recorded. They would end up designating that spot too.

Ragingbear 12 years, 2 months ago

Not to mention, that future upgrades and improvements on that building are all messed up, as each change has to be submitted and approved because you have to try to preserve the historic signifigance of that building.

I used to pass by this church several times a week. Half the windows have painted over boards on it, the yard is a wreck, paint has not been touched up for years, and the sidewalk was all but entirely disintigrated.

And food for thought, this church is one of the few churches that have a sanctuary policy. That means that if a person is being a prostitute on the steps, that the poice can't do anything unless they are caught in the act and charged. And this church is about a block or so from a public school.

How do I know about this policy? I have been propositioned on more than one occassion.

And to the best of my knowledge, I beleive that if they do have a congregation, it is overwhelmingly small.

Let's designate something useful as a historic landmark. How about the place where Simon sleeps downtown? Would be more productive.

J Good Good 12 years, 2 months ago

It is a thriving little church people, and they are raising money to fix it up. The neighborhood has come a LONG ways in recent years, you should check it out, since it is clear that you have not been there recently....

bearded_gnome 12 years, 2 months ago

I am glad that the very important link with langston hughes will apparently re restored and preserved through this!

no, I don't agree with the "sanctuary" policy you're talking about Raging...

yes, this congregation is trying hard indeed!

note that the liberal KU prof is not saving a "fundies'" church...[above}.

however, not enough is done in this community to link us to langston hughes. so I am glad for that!

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