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New website launched for historic St. Mark's Church preservation

Jeff Bobo • Dec 3, 2015 at 1:14 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Having already completed a volunteer cleanup of the 103-year-old building last month, a group working to restore the historic St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church is now in full fundraising mode.

The St. Mark’s Preservation Committee announced earlier this week that a new website dedicated to informing the public about the church, as well as collecting contributions for the renovation, is now live.

The site, www.saintmarkspreservation.org, contains a history of the church, details about its significance to the community, and photos of the structure both past and present.

The committee is raising funds to transform the building into a community center.

St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church was identified in October as being among the top 10 most endangered historic sites in Tennessee

Preservation committee chairwoman Dr. Kim Cassidy said the website will be updated on a regular basis with new photos and progress reports.

“We want this to be a tool to communicate with the public and a way to share with the world our passion for restoring the church,” Cassidy said. “The St. Mark’s Preservation Committee is making great strides towards preserving and reopening the historic landmark for community use. We have experienced a tremendous amount of interest and support from the community for this project.”

A holiday tradition in Rogersville is the annual Christmas tour of homes and historic buildings. For the first time, St. Mark’s has been added to the tour, which Cassidy said will only increase the community awareness and interest in the proposed renovation project.

Cassidy added, “Every time we have been working at the church, someone comes in to see what we are doing and to share stories about their childhood spent here at the church. There is a great love for this church and the memories that it evokes when people visit.”

St. Mark’s was founded in 1875 as the first African American Presbyterian church in the region.

The current building was constructed in 1912 and is located at the corner of Hasson Street and Kyle Street on the campus of the former Swift College, which is now owned by the Hawkins County Board of Education.

The church dissolved in 2002 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

A previous effort to transform St. Mark’s into a community center lost momentum in 2008 when the project’s champion, longtime teacher and school board member Ella Jo Bradley, passed away.

Earlier this year, the preservation committee acquired a 99-year-lease for the church from the BOE.

The initial renovation plans include installation of a new roof and wall stabilization. The estimated cost for both projects is about $40,000.

A volunteer cleanup day was held Nov. 21, and more volunteer labor will be sought in the future as the project moves forward.

But the preservation committee has also developed donation levels for those who might not be able to participate in person, but still want to support the preservation.

“Our donation levels have been established in honor of significant community and St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church members,” Cassidy said. “These are people who have made or continue to make an important contribution to our community. People may also make a donation in honor of someone they know who has made a difference in the lives of our community members.”

Donors at the levels indicated will receive recognition in the church museum when it is completed as well as in publications for the church.

Donation levels include: $100, Ms. Norma Bowers; $250, Mr. A.J. Hoyle; $500, Ms. Doris Haywood; $1,000, Mr. Arch Fain; $2,500, Ms. Ella Jo Bradley; and $5,000, W.H. Franklin.

Donations may be sent to Foundation Forward, Inc./St. Mark’s Preservation, 168 Lena Drive, Rogersville, TN 37857.

For more information, call Cassidy at (423) 754-2862.               

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