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May 28, 2014

Steeple chase: Push is on to replace a signature piece of New Albany's Town Clock Church

Organization needs $150,000 to replace landmark steeple

NEW ALBANY — There’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Less than two years into the project, the organization Friends of the Town Clock Church has raised about $233,000 toward the rehabilitation of the building that is the namesake of the organization.

And the focus is on the former focal point of Town Clock Church —  the sizable steeple that served as a sign of freedom to slaves coming from Kentucky during the Civil War era.

“We’d love to get a single gift to cover the steeple,” said Jerry Finn, a member of Friends of the Town Clock Church and one of the organizers of the refurbishment project.

Last week, crews replaced windows and worked on the outside of the church. With $10,000 to $15,000 more in contributions, Finn said the window work can be completed on the church, which is located at 300 E. Main St.

However, to replicate and replace the steeple, the nonprofit group will need to raise an additional $150,000.

Finn is confident it can be done, as he said the community has already opened its pockets for the project.

“To be able to raise that much money on a project like this — yes, I’m very happy about that,” Finn said.

The amount raised includes $75,000 the New Albany City Council appropriated for the project last year.

Irv Stumler is the chair of the Restoration Task Group for refurbishing the church, and he said he’s proud of the work that’s been accomplished so far.

“It’s important to bring this building back to its original form,” Stumler said.

“Town Clock Church represents hope and freedom, and it needs to be preserved for future generations,” he added.

Replacing the steeple to the Circa-1852 structure would be the “frosting on the cake” for the project, and at the same time would improve New Albany’s skyline, Finn said.

“It would make a visual statement to the community about the importance of this congregation,” he said.

Second Baptist Church is the congregation that worships in the building, and though it is a small group, Stumler said it has been diligent in aiding Friends of the Town Clock Church with the improvements.

The church raised $11,000 at the onset of  the project to clean the steeple area and prepare it for construction.

The project has increased awareness about the church, which served as a link in the Underground Railroad.

New Albany author and historian Pam Peters has dedicated hours upon hours researching the history of the church, and she has made some new discoveries about past congregations that worshiped there.

There’s also a push to have the church included on the National Register of Historic Places.

ON THE WEB:

• To learn more about how to donate, visit the website townclockchurch.org

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Rachel May, New Albany, left, works with Julia Coward, 13, Jeffersonville, during the Rachel May Studios and New Albany Production House's Jam Camp in New Albany on Thursday afternoon. A total of six participants attended the week-long camp for teenagers where they worked on songwriting, musicianship, artist development, and recording.

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