“Saving Grace” says never say die- never
By Andrea Gaines
They have been working on restoring the old building for ten-plus years. They said to themselves, we must never give up … and, they didn’t.
“They” are local African Americans whose families have been here for hundreds of years, the Lincoln Preservation Foundation, and the Friends of Grace (building trustees).
The 1885 stone building has stood unused for almost 75 years, as the team struggled to keep it from collapsing. The goal: raise the cash to keep it alive as a Grace Heritage Site. This is history, craftsmanship, love, and hard labor all rolled into one. With a few bird nests, arrowheads, old joists, church pews, and vision tossed in. Never. Say. Die. Never.
Project Chronology and looking ahead to 2022
2003/2004: Site secured for preservation, Saving Grace video, publicity, meetings, photographic documentation, new driveway, doors & windows protected, research.
2005 to 2006: Archaeological dig, church bell and belfry removed, new flooring/ceiling.
2007 to 2018: Repoint stonework, clear title, shore up roof, fix steps, give public tours, complete first floor, excavate, complete dig, replace rotten wood.
2019 to 2022: Replace floor joists and install wide-plank sub flooring, bring back original church pews and “Bishops” chairs, open the place to the public.
See a five-minute “Saving Grace” video at www.lincolnpreservation.org.
Blood, sweat, and joy
One of the project’s earliest supporters (call her Betty) went to the building early one morning to see the new floor. When she arrived, she saw that several old timers, some in their eighties, had repositioned the 100-year-old joists that would form the base … These old guys wanted to make things easier for the volunteer contractor. And, Betty saw, they had performed a modern-day miracle. They had brought in the original pews, stored in a nearby barn for some 20 years, polished them to perfection and arranged them just as they would have been in 1885. Betty fell to her knees and wept.
You know who you are – thank you
Hundreds of individuals and organizations have helped bring this stunning building back to life. Back to life from certain ruin. They are contractors, archaeologists, people with a few extra hours on their hands on a Saturday or Sunday, rich folks, poor folks, blacks, whites, area Quakers and members of other religious organizations, local businesses, neighbors, school kids, retirees. They, are you.