Restoration of Macedonia Church expected to be complete in early 2024

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 28, 2023

Work set to begin this summer

BURLINGTON — It’s been nearly 40 years since  Macedonia Baptist Church was used for regular service and in the following decades, the structure, key to the region’s Black history, has fallen into disrepair.

Charissa Durst, of Hardlines Design Company, of Columbus, works on a historic structure report for Macedonia Baptist Church. (Submitted photo | Jason Lucas).

But, thanks to numerous financial awards in the past year, work to restore it will start soon and plans are in place for it to find new life as a historic site in the next year.

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The church congregation was founded in 1811 and the building was built in 1849 when land was donated to the church board of trustees, Lacy Ward a volunteer and manager of the Macedonia Project, said.

“When the Burlington 37 arrived, the congregation doubled and they had to build a new church,” Ward said of the those were freed from slavery and settled in the community.

The church has been owned by the board of trustees since its inception.

Since its closure from regular usage, Ward said there have been visits to the structure and it had been used for some events.

“But, right now, it could not be occupied,” he said.

Two groups are involved with the Macedonia Project, Ward said — the board of trustees and the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, which serves as the fiscal agent and fundraising consultant.

In the past year, the project received $100,000 from the state of Ohio for the restoration, which Ward credits to then-State Sen. Bob Peterson, R-17, and, on the federal side, $100,000 from the National Parks Service, which he credits to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

In December, a historic structure report was completed by Hardlines Design Company, of Columbus.

“That gave us the current condition and gives you a treatment plan – what you need to do to bring it up to code,” Ward said.

He said this report was paid for in half by the Jeffris Family Foundation, of Wisconsin, along with matching funds from the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio and the National Park Service.

He said they will need to repair the building’s roof and footing and replace 80-90 percent of boards.

“And we’ll be redoing electrical and installing HVAC, so, for the first time, it will be heated and cooled,” Ward said. “When its complete, it will be up to code.”

He said the intended use will be as a historic site for tourists to visit, and also a community center, available for rental for special events.

Ward said the church trustees are also in the process of organizing another group, a preservation society, which would oversee the building. Both groups would be comprised of descendants of the original congregation.

Ward said they have amassed $300,000 toward their goal and the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio is launching a fundraising effort for the remaining $100,000 that is needed.

Now that the structure report is complete, he said the next step will be to hire an architect to oversee the project, a step which should be done in March. Then, bids would be taken in April and the plan is for work to begin in June or July.

“It should be a six to seven-month project and be opening in January or February of 2024,” Ward said. “It’s going to be an exciting year going through this process.”