- Associated Press - Thursday, January 19, 2017

NEW ALBANY, Ind. (AP) - One hundred one years after lightning destroyed the Town Clock Church’s steeple, a restoration group raised the money to erect a replica last May.

Now, with help from the community, the group is turning its attention to the inside of the 165-year-old church that was instrumental during to the Underground Railroad.

“I think the community sees this church as such an important part of the history of the metro area,” said Jerry Finn, volunteer fundraiser and adviser to the Friends of the Town Clock Church board of directors. “We have donors on both sides of the river. I think the sense of people who came together to help slaves escape the horrors of slavery is something that resonates with people and is something that people want to see preserved.”

The final touches of painting and stencil work on the church’s walls and ceiling were completed Tuesday. The chocolate brown ceiling and white walls are now ceilings of beige-white and walls of gold. The new coats restore the inside of the church back to its original colors.

“We actually had a professional do some research on what the original colors would have been,” Finn said.

Those colors make the ornate architecture, especially on the ceiling, “pop,” he said.

“You really couldn’t get a sense of the beauty of the church because it was just kind of all washed out together,” Finn said.

The Friends of the Town Clock Church board of directors hired New Albany native Mike Colin to paint stenciling along the dado, which is like wainscoting. Colin retired from a family church painting company.

“This church is very simple in its ornamentation in a lot of ways, but very elegant,” Finn said. “With the Greek revival architecture, we wanted somebody who knew the architecture and could come up with a design that would basically reflect the history of the church and the time period when it was built.”

While the painting is finished, there’s still much more work to be done on the inside of the church, which is home to Second Baptist Church.

Since 2013, the group has raised about $602,000. The replica steeple alone cost $160,000. Continued restoration work relies on the continued support from the community.

“We still have some funds available, but we’re going to need more to be able to complete it,” Irv Stumler, chairman of the church’s restoration committee, said.

The decision to renovate the historic building’s inside came only after the group was successful in raising the steeple.

“It definitely needed attention,” Stumler said. “It was getting in pretty unstable and unsightly condition.”

A third grader is the one who planted the seed to repaint the church, Finn said. He commented during a field trip that the while some features of the church were nice, the rest didn’t look so good in comparison.

Contractors have already repaired plaster that was loose and cracking. Soon, work on the floor near the entrance will begin. But more work, including restoration on stained glass windows, still lies ahead.

“As the money has come in, we’ve done the work,” Finn said.

The Second Baptist Congregation, which didn’t have the extra funds to take on the projects, are excited about the renovations so far, Stumler said.

“I think it will be very helpful in them continuing their mission or their congregation to probably add additional members,” he said.

When the Town Clock Church was founded in 1852, its congregation represented a new school of thought within the Presbyterian church. These worshippers were active abolitionists. Oral history suggests it helped slaves escape through the Underground Railroad. The church has a tunnel in its undercroft, or cellar.

“It wasn’t slaves escaping - it was slaves taking advantage of their freedom,” Stumler said.


Source: (Jeffersonville) News and Tribune, https://bit.ly/2iCJdW7


Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind., https://www.newsandtribune.com

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