Plans to save historic church in Augusta are taking shape

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) - More details are emerging about a plan to save the historic Trinity CME Church in Augusta.

The plan would involve moving the church and reusing it as a cultural center, The Augusta Chronicle reported ( ).

Established in 1840 and known as the birthplace of today's Christian Methodist Episcopal denomination, the church has been empty since the congregation moved out in the 1990s due to underground contamination by a nearby gas plant.

Built in the 1890s at Eighth and Taylor streets near the Augusta Canal's third level, the structure has found a friend in the Augusta Canal Authority. The authority last year announced its "Saving Mother Trinity" initiative and delayed Atlanta Gas Light Corp.'s plans to tear it down.

"This is one of the most important projects facing this community," said Dayton Sherrouse, executive director of the authority.

Sherrouse made the comments while providing an update on the plans during a recent Augusta Commission meeting. Those plans include moving the church building and redeveloping the area, he said.

While Atlanta Gas Light bought the church and many surrounding parcels, which are now vacant, to remove contaminated soil, "the worst contaminated soil is underneath the (church) building," he said.

Moving the church had never been considered a viable option, commissioners noted, when the Trinity congregation accepted a buyout and built a new church on Glenn Hills Drive.

But now, the authority has "talked to some movers and we've found that we can move the church over on some additional gas property that's already been remediated," Sherrouse said.

The move might involve removing the church's brick facade, which was added in the 1920s, and possibly leaving its original wood exterior, but the exterior remains "up for debate," he said.

"Our plan is a little larger than just saving the church," he said. "It's also to try to make it a catalyst for redevelopment around the church."

The authority has agreed to serve as interim owner of the church and is trying to raise additional funds for moving the building. The church will move to a site Atlanta Gas Light will donate for that purpose, Sherrouse said.

Later, the group will develop plans for renovating the church and determine its new use as an art or performance space, museum, business incubator or some other purpose, he said.

The authority has obtained a grant from the group Partners for Sacred Places to assist as well as agreement from Atlanta Gas Light to pay for moving the church, Sherrouse said.


Information from: The Augusta Chronicle ,