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Historic church restoration in Abingdon

By Jim Conrad
Published On: Jun 03 2013 03:50:27 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 02 2013 11:00:00 PM CDT

An Abingdon church in the middle of the town's historic district is undergoing restorations.

ABINGDON, Va. -

An historic Abingdon, Virginia church is looking to the future as they begin renovations to their 130-year-old building.

Those renovations have to be done just right -- it lies in the town historic district. It's what is termed a 'generational calling' to insure the structure will last long into the future.

Drive down Main Street in Abingdon and you can't help but notice what looks like a structure being built around the bell tower of the Abingdon United Methodist Church. It's actually part of the renovations to the church, which was built in 1883.

"The maintenance for a historic building is ongoing, but certain things fall to a generational calling like roofs and the tuck pointing on the bell towers that has never been done," church member Michael Ferrell said.

To make things a little bit more tricky, the church sits right in the middle of the town's historic district. "Everything we do has to be within a certain guideline and we can't change things. We renovate and restore. Basically, it's a restoration rather than a renovation," Pastor Sherry Boles says.

Even the smallest details have to maintain the buildings historic integrity, like the mortar being replaced. "That mortar was hand made in 1883 with sand and limestone, sand and lime and so we're cutting out some of that. Some of it has eroded with time so we're cutting that out," Ferrell says.

The beauty of the stained glass windows of the church can be enjoyed from inside but not outside. Part of the half million-dollar renovation will replace the outside protective windows.

The historic roof will also be replaced. "We have to obey the historical standards of Abingdon which means it has to go back with the same look and structural construction of the material. So its what is called a standing seam metal roof," Ferrell said.

"It's served us well but it's time for us to do something to serve the building and make sure that it serves the community," Pastor Boles added.

More than 200 ribbons with prayers and well wishes for the construction workers will be tied to the outside fence for those working on the church project.