‘Blessed’ with donations, St. Luke AME Church undertakes additional renovations

photo by: Mike Yoder/Journal World Photo

Restoration work began again Monday on the St. Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church, 900 New York, as part of a historic preservation project. A crew from The GKW Group - masonry restoration specialists from Kansas City, Mo., was working on the exterior brick walls and chimneys on the south and east sides.

Additional restoration work is underway on the brick masonry of a historic Black church in East Lawrence thanks to a generous response to fundraising efforts.

The Rev. Verdell Taylor, of St. Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church, said workers are now tuck-pointing the brick veneer on the east and south sides of the church built in 1910 and anchoring the brick veneer where it has pulled away from the underlying wood frame. Several fundraising sources made the work possible on the church, 900 New York St., which is on state and national registers of historic places.

“We’re blessed to have this kind of community support,” Taylor said. “It’s more than I expected.”

photo by: Mike Yoder/Journal World Photo

Poet Langston Hughes was a member St. Luke AME Church as a young boy. An ongoing restoration project also includes two large stained-glass gable windows and is underway at Hoefer’s Custom Stained Glass in South Hutchinson.

The biggest donation of more than $41,000 was from the Lawrence Preservation Alliance, which donated all of its 2020 membership fees to St. Luke’s restoration efforts. Additional funds came from a Douglas County Community Foundation drive to raise money for the church through a link on its website and direct donations to St. Luke, Taylor said.

With those recent donations, the church was able to add masonry work on its east and south exterior walls to the tuck-pointing and anchoring work on the north and west exterior walls, which was started late last fall thanks to a $90,000 grant from the Kansas Historical Society and a $57,000 grant from the Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council. Those grants also allowed the church to hire Hoefer’s Custom Stained Glass, of South Hutchinson, to refurbish the church’s two large stained-glass windows.

Those windows were taken to Hoefer’s workshop in November, where it was discovered that more stained glass than expected would have to be ordered from a manufacturer in Kokomo, Ind., said Stan Hernly, of Hernly Associates Inc., who has helped with St. Luke’s restorations for more than a decade. As a result, the windows have not been re-installed at St. Luke.

“They are planning to come back out soon to put the frames for the new storm windows that go outside the stained-glass windows, so they are getting close,” he said.

photo by: Mike Yoder/Journal-World Photo

Restoration work began again Monday on the St. Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church, 900 New York, as part of a historic preservation project. A crew from The GKW Group – masonry restoration specialists from Kansas City, Mo., was working on the exterior brick walls and chimneys on the south and east sides.

Work to be completed with the latest round of donations from the Lawrence Preservation Alliance and other sources will also include repairs of several smaller windows that had structural damage caused by the failing masonry and replacement of broken louvers in the two bell towers, Taylor said.

“We didn’t want to have broken louvers in the towers when we get our new windows,” he said.

Plans also call for the installation of chair lift from the basement, which will be accessed from a ramped entry on the church’s north side, to the chapel one story above, Hernly said.

“We’re working on the interior designs for the lift. We’re not ready to install it, but were working on the designs,” he said, adding that state officials would have to sign off on the design because of St. Luke’s status as an historical site.

There have not been services at the church for nearly a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Taylor said in a way that has worked out because construction crews have been able to work unimpeded and without worry of disrupting church activities. Its shutdown also will allow parishioners to return to church with refurbished stained-glass windows and other fresh updates.

“We’re so thankful for what God has done,” he said. “I don’t know when we can go back to having services — maybe this summer or a little later. That’s up to our leadership, but we are so blessed.”

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