Efforts continue to save historic Sevier County church

Efforts continue to save historic Sevier County church

Posted:
New Salem Baptist Church was founded in 1886 as the area's first African-American Church. It's also Sevierville's oldest standing building. New Salem Baptist Church was founded in 1886 as the area's first African-American Church. It's also Sevierville's oldest standing building.
A task force formed six years to renovate the church says they haven't made enough progress. A task force formed six years to renovate the church says they haven't made enough progress.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

SEVIERVILLE (WATE) - The effort is continuing to save a historic Sevier County church. Work has been underway to restore New Salem Baptist Church since 2010.

The church was founded in 1886 as the area's first African-American Church. It's also Sevierville's oldest standing building.

However, the church fell into disrepair decades ago and those working to preserve it for future generations face many challenges.

A task force formed six years to renovate the church says they haven't made enough progress.

"If we don't get proper funding, and a sufficient amount within the next couple of years, I'd say we'd probably lose the building in its entirety," said Alverrene Bridgeforth with the New Salem Renovation Task Force.

Preservationists say water damage has started to cause mold inside the building. The church also continues to have structural issues.

Preservationists say the church's brick foundation is in major need of repair, many bricks need to repointed and much of the mortar needs to be replaced.

The price tag to fix that is expected to be high. The task force needs to raise $500,000 to restore the building, but to date only $20,000 been raised through donations and fundraisers.

Recently, the New Salem Renovation Task Force applied for a state preservation grant, which could provide matching funds up to $67,000.

"The name 'church' will limit us as to what we can get, but we're looking," said Bridgeforth.

Fundraisers through the community and donations will be accepted in order to raise enough money to complete renovations as soon as possible.

"The future looks good. I think we're going to have a very important historic structure saved for the city of Sevierville," said Carol McMahan, Sevier County Historian.

The East Tennessee Preservation Alliance group met Friday to discuss adding the church to its list of endangered properties for 2014. It was on the 2013 list.

If you'd like to help, call Alverrene Bridgeforth at (865) 919-6557 or  Carol McMahan at (865) 453-6411.

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