Story/significance: Campbell Chapel has served Americus’ oldest black congregation since 1920. This Romanesque Revival Church with Queen Anne style details was designed by Georgia’s first registered African American architect, Louis H. Persley. The church serves the community as worship space, hosts educational and political meetings, and held graduation exercises from 1957-1969 for local African American students.
Challenge/threat: The church’s structural integrity is threatened by lack of maintenance. The twisting and sagging of interior trusses and beams are the result of deteriorated mortar and faulty flashing at the bell tower. Additional problems with moisture have contributed to rotting windows and floors, and a collapsed ceiling. Recently the 700+ pound bell collapsed from its rotted ceiling members and crashed to the ground floor. Finding support and funding for such extensive and expensive (more than $500,000) stabilization work is a large challenge in Americus.
Progress: On February 8, 2009, The Georgia Trust with Campbell Chapel AME Church, celebrated their 150th congregational anniversary with a spotlight event at the Rylander Theatre. Information was presented to the public about the significance of the church and the fundraising needed to rehabilitate it. Currently, the congregation is still raising funds for extensive stabilization work to take place in the chapel building.
Impacts/outcomes: The Georgia Trust has worked with church leaders to educate them about successful fundraising strategies. Educational booklets provided by the National Trust for Historic Preservation have also been supplied. The Georgia Trust has been working with local architects to identify the phases needed for the buildings stabilization.
Next Steps: The Partners in the Field program continues to work with members of the congregation in Americus to assess goals for a successful preservation and rehabilitation strategy. With the assistance of the Trust, the congregation is working to raise funds for the stabilization of the building.