Atlanta Gas Light moves forward with plans to demolish historic black church

Ministers gathered to pray at the historic Old Trinity CME Church Monday afternoon July 14, 2014 in Augusta. MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF

Atlanta Gas Light is moving forward with plans to tear down a historic black church that sits on land contaminated by a former nearby coal gas plant.

 

The energy company, a subsidiary of Southern Co., intends to serve city officials with notice Tuesday of its appeal of a recent decision by the Historic Preservation Commission denying a certificate of appropriateness to tear down the former home of Trinity CME Church on Eighth Street, said Mekka Parish, Atlanta Gas Light’s corporate communications manager.

The move comes despite an ongoing “Save Mother Trinity” campaign led recently by the Augusta Canal Authority to relocate the church to a nearby site. The authority announced last month it had raised $475,000 to match a promised $300,000 from Atlanta Gas Light to move the church.

The church was built by former slaves in the 1890s at the site of the founding of the Christian Methodist Episcopal denomination a half-century earlier.

A coal gas plant contaminated land under and around the church for nearly a century until it was replaced by cleaner natural gas in 1955. The surrounding area has been cleared of coal tar residue, and all that remains is contamination beneath the church, according to previous reports.

Atlanta Gas Light encountered heated opposition to its plans at last month’s Historic Preservation Commission meeting and has detailed its position in an ad in today’s Augusta Chronicle, stating Atlanta Gas Light has offered the building “to any organization that can demonstrate it has the funds and expertise to safely move, restore and maintain the building” several times over the past 17 years, but had no viable takers.

The canal authority’s offer is insufficient for the task, which Atlanta Gas Light says might cost an additional $750,000 to move and up to $2.5 million more to stabilize and restore the church, the ad states.

“We are concerned that even if the building can safely be moved, without a viable plan to complete the entire project, the effort would only transfer a rapidly deteriorating building to a different location where it could become a blight and safety hazard for the community,” it says.

The appeal goes before the Augusta Commission for approval.

Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com.

 

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