By David Tuma
The Belton Journal
Work began on securing the roof of the Old St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Saturday. Once the roof is supported, volunteer workers will begin taking down the stone walls in hopes that a more secure slab can be poured and the walls put back in place.
The fundraising efforts of the 1874 Church Restoration Committee and The Better Belton Foundation made the efforts to save the church possible.
Larry Guess, who spearheads the BBF, was on hand to monitor the volunteer workers and organize the skilled builders who volunteered their services.
“The rock walls are holding up the roof. We plan on taking down the walls and pouring a new foundation. It may take over a month; it just depends upon who shows up each Saturday,” said Guess.
The church is built of hand-cut quarry rock from Bell County. In the early days, the building also served as a house of worship for the Baptists and Methodists. “The church building was started before the Civil War,” said Sandy Mason, Treasurer of the 1874 Church Restoration Committtee. “It was finished 10 years after the war due to a lack of funding.”
During World War II the church was open 24-hours a day.
In 1974 the building was the county’s first structure to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2009 Preservation Texas designated the building as one of the most endangered historic places in Texas.
“We have had a lot of interest in this project,” Mason said. “Sam Listi was here earlier this morning.”
If the building can be restored, the committee’s goal is to give the building to the Bell County community.
“This church was been closed more than it has been open in my lifetime. It has either been opened or closed many, many times. We are here this morning to tell them how to do it,” unofficial Belton historian Berneta Peeples said.