By Kierra Pixler
The 1874 Church on Wall Street has been a work in progress for going on eight years now. It is lacking funding that it needs to be properly rebuilt and made into a restored building for the Belton community to enjoy while still keeping one of the longest standing churches in Belton alive.
“The church was started in 1860 and interrupted by The Civil War and it took them until 1874 to get it built and it was a focal point of the community,” said Harriet Monsell, a member of the 1874 restoration committee. “It was in use from 1874 until 1974. So 100 years and then they decided that their congregation was getting bigger and they didn’t have parking, and so they sold the building to Bell Fine Arts. It is a representation of our history, of our community, and you see so little of that now.”
While the 1874 restoration committee has raised some funds and received grants over the past eight years, they still have a long way to go in order to achieve their main goal of renovating the church.
“We’ve been working to raise money because it needed a foundation. It was started in the 1860’s and finished in 1874, and was just rock walls on dirt. We have raised to date about $45,000-$50,000, and we’ve got the foundation in. And now we have an opportunity because Better Belton is giving us a matching grant for $15,000 and we need another $15,000, and with that we can put the windows in and maybe start putting the rock work back,” said Monsell.
The Bell Fine Arts center owned the church prior to the restoration committee being established and did try to keep up with maintaining the building so that it could remain.
“I made phone calls to see about grants,” said Janis Holmes, current member of the Bell Fine Arts, “and I called the Texas Historical Commission and talked with a lady there who was in charge of grants, and she said you have to understand that there are many small towns in Texas and some of them have as many as 15 of these properties that they are trying to restore and there is not enough money and the chances of getting grants is going to be very slim. Bell Fine Arts through the years has had fundraisers, bean and corn bread luncheons and the money went to the maintenance of the church. We had a gift shops, sold things and a portion of that went to the treasury, and we maintained the church as well as we could.”
Bell Fine Arts is still attached to the church and while they are for the renovation, there are some concerns regarding the standing condition of the building.
“The city gave us around a month to restore it and during that time some people on our local historic commission were very critical of us and kept saying we should do something. And finally, i said we can’t do it, do you want to do it? And they got together a committee and applied for a 501(c)(3) status and we deeded it to them. We are very close neighbors and we have become concerned with the condition of the property now. The stacks of rocks around the church are a source of rats and vermin and they’ve tried to have the building exterminated, but the windows are open so I think the chances of that having any effect are slim. We are not asking for anything except that it be cleaned up and be acceptable,” said Holmes.
The 1874 restoration committee will meet with the city council again around March and update them with any progress that has been made.