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Thinking Out Loud: A Preservation Success Story

Over the past three years, a group of residents in the Missouri River town of Glasgow have gathered on numerous Saturdays. Their labor is saving a historic black church in town. On this episode of KBIA's Thinking Out Loud we hear from preservation advocates about what it means when Missouri's historic buildings remain visible on the landscape.

Credit Trevor Harris / KBIA
Trevor Harris / KBIA
This episode of KBIA's 'Thinking Out Loud' explores the community service as an important ingredient in historic preservation.

In 2001, Glasgow, Missouri's Campbell Chapel AME Church was not in good shape. Water cascading down the southern wall had washed away mortar up to three feet high from between bricks on the exterior of the 1860 church. The interior was not aging well either thanks to updates that began before most of our great-grandfathers learned to walk.

Getting listed on Missouri Preservation's Places in Peril that year only let everyone else know what residents of Glasgow had known for years: If someone didn't do something soon the walls of the 'Little Chapel' that had stood on a prominent hill in town might soon come crumbling down.

Glasgow native Aaron Gouge had seen the church almost every day of his life. In a recent e-mail, Gouge - pronounced 'gooch' - explained why he initially began renovating a church he never actually attended.

I considered myself lucky to have this town as my playground. I could go anywhere I wanted, and see my friends who were no more than several blocks away. So these buildings, architecture, history, stories and people were all the ingredients that shaped my childhood. I just want to perpetuate that... Hopefully our actions will spark the need for others to tackle other projects for the church.

The 155-year-old church still needs windows sealed, a new furnace, electrical work and a new roof. About the renovations to date, Glasgow resident Sandra Enyard - who grew up in the church - said that a Kansas City firm's $160,000 estimate made preservation of the church seem beyond reach. Enyard and others prayed for a divine intervention.

Aaron Gouge approached us and wanted to restore the church for free... He worked very diligently in the winter on his back in the winter tuck-pointing all by himself. He wants to restore the floors back to their original state. Once he started tuck-pointing, the community really came together and started the painting.

Grants from a local estate and a funeral home operator helped purchase materials for the community-based preservation project that Gouge couldn't get donated.

When buildings such as Campbell Chapel are preserved and remain in use, Missouri Preservation's Executive Director Bill Hart counts another success story. "Bitten by the preservation bug in the 1970s", Hart remains passionate about those structures in town that tell the communities' story.

Preservation of historic properties saves resources. It saves building materials from going into the landfill. If you want to consider it, the greenest building if it were is one that's already there. It doesn't require all new building materials. It doesn't waste what's there. It preserves what's there.

While the ongoing work at Campbell Chapel AME Church is a preservation success story, there remain numerous historic structures across the state without identified champions. To shed light on historic structures in need of intervention, Missouri Preservation will announce their annual Places in Peril list on Tuesday, May 26.

Coming up next week, the City of Columbia's Historic Preservation Commission hosts their annual Most Notable Property Program. This event is a nod to the efforts of local preservationists. It is free and open to the public. The program begins at 6:30 on Monday, May 11 at Columbia's preserved Missouri Theatre.

Listen for new episodes of Thinking Out Loud each Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on KBIA.

Trevor serves as KBIA’s weekday morning host for classical music. He has been involved with local radio since 1990, when he began volunteering as a music and news programmer at KOPN, Columbia's community radio station. Before joining KBIA, Trevor studied social work at Mizzou and earned a masters degree in geography at the University of Alabama. He has worked in community development and in urban and bicycle/pedestrian planning, and recently served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia with his wife, Lisa Groshong. An avid bicycle commuter and jazz fan, Trevor has cycled as far as Colorado and pawed through record bins in three continents.
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