The former Baptist Tabernacle, located at 318 E. Fourth St., has been bought by the city. Staff photo by Kevin McGloshen

New Albany Mayor Doug England said he’s excited about the possibilities after the city claimed the historic Baptist Tabernacle building, located at 318 E. Fourth St., on Thursday.

According to England, $108,000 was still owed on the building and the city was able to purchase it for $98,000, during the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department property sale.

“It’s an historic building that was either going to be torn down or used wrongly,” England said. “We made an intelligent decision to do the right thing.”

The money for the building came from a city account that can only be used for purchasing or repairing city property, England said. The funds could not be used for other projects such as street paving.

Councilman Kevin Zurschmiede is not as encouraged by the acquisition. “I’m not very happy with their purchase of the building. It needs a tremendous amount of work to be a viable building for any organization,” he said.

Zurschmiede said he considered buying the building himself but did not feel it was a good value. He said the city would be better off buying vacant land and building a new structure.

England said they would not have purchased it if they did not think the building could be restored for a reasonable amount.

The building could be used for several purposes including a museum with donated antique fire equipment or for City Council chambers, England said.

“We want to try and preserve this building. I believe this is something we can pass on to future generations,” England said. “It could be used for a meeting center or for council chambers as there is plenty of parking.”

England credits input from the Floyd County Historical Society in helping him realize the value of the one-time church building. England said he would involve community leaders in coming up with ideas on how to raise funding for restoring the building.

“We can work together to get it restored, to make it purposeful once again. I believe in that,” England said.

Councilman John Gonder sides with the mayor, and said he should be commended for making the purchase.

“It’s a striking building. I think it could be one of the most significant things for the revitalization of the downtown area,” Gonder said. “It could be an assembly room, freeing up the city council chambers on the third floor (of the City-County Building).”

Gonder said other city offices could be moved to the building to alleviate some of the space crunch at the City-County Building.

The building was named the Baptist Tabernacle Church after a merger between the First Baptist Church and Bank Street Baptist Church. The building was occupied in 1880 after construction began in July of 1878.

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