By Danielle McCarthy Everett, Correspondent
Belton’s historic 1874 Church on Wall Street still has a long list of repairs to undergo until it is fully restored, but the building is now structurally sound after the recent work of members from the Better Belton Foundation and the 1874 Church Restoration Committee. The church, once known as Old St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, is the oldest standing church in Bell County. For years, the property had fallen into disrepair and was threatened with demolition until recent efforts to preserve the historic landmark.
“I could just cry in happiness because we had made so little progress until now,” said Harriet Monsell, a member of the 1874 Church Restoration Committee.
Jack Folsom, treasurer for the Better Belton Foundation, said a new foundation that was installed at the church last year allowed for the walls to be repaired this year. Folsom said the foundation used some of its existing funds to re-rock the stone walls and make the structure sound. Passersby will also notice the chain-link fence that once surrounded the property is now gone.
“Structurally it’s very sound, however there’s still a lot of work left to do,” Folsom said. “We’ve got to do an entire new inside and a new roof. Our next goal is to get a bell put back in the bell tower and a cross put back on top of that.”
Folsom said that the Better Belton Foundation’s goal is to fully restore the property within the next two years, though it may take less time. Possible uses include a headquarters for Better Belton as well as an event and wedding rental venue. Overall, Folsom estimates the remaining work will cost around $200,000, which will require some fundraising along with the use of some of Better Belton Foundation’s existing and projected funds.
Monsell said the restoration committee has been raising funds through AmazonSmile, a program that gives a small portion of Amazon purchases to charities. She also said the committee has been working with students at University of Mary Hardin-Baylor to create and soon launch www.1874church.org, where people will be able to make donations to the project through PayPal. Monsell said the website will also feature stories and memories people share of the old church.
“It’s great to see its potential again as an active part of the community,” Monsell said. “The faith that built that building is the faith that built our community. That’s something we all really need to hold on to in these times.”