People who are trying to save and refurbish a historic East Lawrence church celebrated a year of successes toward their goal Saturday by enjoying food and live music.
Members of the nearly 100-year-old St. Luke AME Church building, 900 N.Y., also wanted to use the afternoon's festivities as a way of thanking the community for its support as they wait to hear if the church has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
"We're just saying that you can come out and celebrate with us," said the church's pastor, the Rev. Verdell Taylor. "I'm happy, and the congregation is happy. We're really excited about going forward and ready to get the restoration under way."
Last month, the Historic Sites Review Board of the Kansas State Historical Society nominated the church for consideration as a national site. A final decision by the U.S. Interior Department is expected in a few weeks. The church has historical ties to poet and author Langston Hughes, the Underground Railroad and the struggle for racial equality.
More than 100 people stopped by the church throughout the afternoon, event organizers said.
A year ago, the Second Century Fund was formed by individuals with the church, the Lawrence Preservation Alliance and others in the community to raise funds for church restoration.
Since then, more than $135,000 has been received from several sources, including the Shelley Miller Charitable Trust Foundation, the Douglas County Community Foundation, the Heritage Trust Fund, the Kansas State Historical Society and the preservation alliance, as well as individuals. Also included in the $135,000 is a $100,000 grant the church received from the Interior Department's Save America's Treasures program.
"We thank the Lord," Catherine Woods said about the contributions. Woods, 95, the church's oldest member, attended the celebration.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan., played a role in obtaining the Interior Department grant, and he also stopped by the celebration.
"This historic site is going to be here in the future, and people will understand what this meant in the history of the United States and to the people of Kansas," said Moore, who represents the 3rd District, which includes part of Lawrence.
Placement on the national historic sites register would allow the church to become eligible for federal grants that can be used in the restoration. It would also give strength to continued fundraising efforts.
About St. Luke
¢ Church congregation was formed in 1862 as the African Methodist Episcopal congregation. ¢ Current building was constructed in 1910. ¢ Membership is about 135, with Sunday attendance about 50. ¢ Church claims connections to the Underground Railroad that transported slaves to freedom. ¢ Was attended by Lawrence poet and author Langston Hughes.
A study is under way to determine what exactly needs to be done to repair the church's roof and structure and it should be done in a few weeks, said Napoleon Crews, executive director of the Second Century Fund.
"We've been getting our engines revved up to restore the church," Crews said.
The church, built in 1910, has several structural problems with the roof and the walls, said Stan Hernley, architect and head of Hernley Associates Inc., the Lawrence architectural firm working on the project. He estimated the cost of repairs at more than $1 million.
Also visiting the church while traveling with Moore was Judy Mallaber, a member of the House of Commons in the British Parliament. She is with a group from Parliament visiting the U.S. through an exchange program.
"I've been to the East Coast and I've been to the West Coast but I've never been to the American heartland and the Midwest before," Mallaber said.