Tuesday, January 30, 2007

$95K raised to help restore historic Arbor Hill church

The Business Review (Albany) - 12:53 PM EST Tuesday

A grassroots fund-raising effort to save the historic St. Joseph's Church in Albany, N.Y., has collected more than $95,000, nearly fulfilling the $100,000 goal that organizers set when they launched the campaign just eight months ago.

"We were really surprised and pleased with the enthusiasm with which people signed on," said Elizabeth Griffin, an historic preservationist who spearheaded a group called Committee 150 that hosted fund-raisers. "They really enjoy the idea of having a party as opposed to just direct giving and to have an opportunity to let their friends, family and neighbors know about the building."

Griffin, former executive director of the Historic Albany Foundation, came up with the idea to mark the 150th anniversary of the laying of the church cornerstone in 1856. Located in Ten Broeck Triangle in the city's Arbor Hill neighborhood, the former Roman Catholic church has deteriorated since the last service was held there in 1993.

The city of Albany paid for emergency repairs after taking title to the property and then transferred ownership in June 2003 to the Historic Albany Foundation.

Under the terms of a $300,000 grant from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Historic Albany Foundation can be reimbursed dollar-for-dollar for work, which means a total of $600,000 could be spent, Griffin said.

Committee 150 expects to raise a total of $150,000 because Candace King Weir, an investment counselor and owner of C.L. King & Associates in Albany, has pledged $1 for every $2 that the committee brings in.

With that $150,000 in hand, plus $100,000 previously raised by Historic Albany Foundation, organizers are zeroing in on their target of $300,000. Historic Albany Foundation will be launching a new campaign to raise the final $50,000.

Stabilization work has already been done to prevent the church from collapsing. The next phase will fix the roof, flashing and masonry. The repairs are meant to shore up the building and prevent further deterioration while a new owner is sought.

There have been various suggestions as to what the church should ultimately become, such as a banquet facility or museum.

"We want to provide a sound building so an investor could come in and re-use that space," said Colleen Ryan, co-founder of Committee 150.

In the meantime, the church continues to suffer from the elements. A windstorm in February 2006 tore slate and sheathing from a section of the northern rear tower, exposing previously unseen roof damage.

A June party is being planned on the grounds of the church to celebrate the work done by Committee 150 and its benefactors.


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