Historic church faces demolition unless community raises $38K

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CUMBERLAND, Ind. (WISH) -The town of Cumberland needs to raise $38,000 by next Thursday to save a 104-year-old church from demolition.

The historic German church is now at risk of demolition for the second time in two years. It was once home to St. John United Church of Christ, and the church still owns the property.

A local company called TWG Development plans to buy the property if it’s awarded federal tax breaks. The company didn’t get those credits this time around, and TWG said the company is now on a waiting list.

While TWG waits, church leaders with St. John say they need money to maintain the empty building. TWG doesn’t plan to pay for that, which is why the town is raising money.

Steven Lindsey is president of St. John’s church council. He said the church has now moved to a new location about two miles from the old church.

“I was married there. Our kids were baptized there,” Lindsey said. “It has meaning to almost everybody here that goes to this church. However, we can’t be there. It’s a small congregation now. The church is big, and we just can’t afford it.”

Lindsey said it’s too expensive to maintain the historic structure.

TWG Development agreed to buy the building and turn it into senior housing if the company is awarded affordable housing credits. Church leaders said they need $75,000 for upkeep while TWG waits for the tax breaks.

Christine Owens is director of planning and development for the town of Cumberland. She said the town has already raised $32,000 through a fundraising effort with Indiana Landmarks.

“I would love for us to be able to save it,” Owens said. “It is a week, but we only need 380 people to donate $100. We feel like that’s a manageable amount.”

Church leaders said real estate advisers told them no one will buy the property unless they demolish the church.

Plans to demolish the church for a 24-hour gas station fell through in 2015 because locals opposed the plan.

Joel Godbey has lived down the street from the church since 1969.

“It’s been a neighborhood fixture for years,” Godbey said. “Cumberland is without much in the way of architectural anchors, and that is one that is certainly a landmark here.”

TWG could know in September if it will receive the tax credits. If not, the company will apply again by November.

The money the town is raising would allow the church to maintain the building until next spring.

If you’d like to donate you can click here and write “Save German Church” in the comment field with your donation.

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