The Mount Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church Restoration Project learned Thursday that Restoration Texas’ board of directors voted to approve a $75,000 matching fund grant to be used for structural repairs and a new roof. for the historic building.
Mt. Vernon AME Church Restoration Project Administrator Tabitha Enge was beyond excited by the news.
“I’m so excited,” Enge said. “This grant will absolutely save this building.”
Organized by freedmen in the 1870s as a church and school, Mount Vernon AME is the third oldest such congregation in Texas and the oldest African-American church in the city. Although the building closed in 2014, Mount Vernon still has a congregation of approximately 300 members.
Enge has been the driving force behind the historic church restoration project for the past eight years. While the project is large in scale, Enge is deeply and personally committed to the effort.
“I wake project restoration and I sleep project restoration,” Enge said. “It means so much to the community. There’s so much to do, but each project brings him closer to being here for another 150 years.
When Enge started working on the project, there was enough money in the church fund to erect scaffolding inside the church in 2015, which saved enough time to collect funds and apply for grants to move to the next phase of restoration.
“Jacob Morris, who was responsible for the preservation of Palestine at the time, gave me information about structural engineers,” Enge said. “That’s when Mark Thacker came to Palestine. He saw the passion and value in the project and has been part of the process ever since. »
Thacker, an architect from Lindale, completed a preservation planning book in 2021 that facilitated grant applications to stabilize the structure, leading to this week’s good news.
Being named one of the state’s “Most Endangered Places” in 2015 by the Texas Historical Commission drew statewide and national attention to the project, facilitating part of the restoration effort. Grants awarded in the past have been spent on restoring the tower facades at the front of the building, which prevented further damage to the roof and structure. Following the completion of Thacker’s Preservation Master Plan, the project entered phase one, which saw the repair and demolition of the ground and foundations in preparation for phase two. The Texas Restoration Grant will fund this phase.
“The second phase will be to repair the roof and the wall structure,” Enge said. “When this part is done, the rest will be cosmetic, but it will mean Mt. Vernon will be standing for a very long time.”
Mary Raum, tourism marketing manager at Visit Palestine, Texas, expressed her excitement at the project’s milestone.
“We are so proud of Tabitha Enge and the restoration team at Mt Vernon AME Church,” Raum said. “Over the past two years, the Palestine City Tourism Advisory Board and City Council have invested $30,000 for the restoration and preservation of this very important historic African-American site in Palestine. The funds were allocated over two years as part of the hotel occupancy tax grant application process and were used to help fund the stabilization of the structure and prepare it for the next phase of the project.
“Next year will be the 150th anniversary of this building,” Enge said. “I wish people could come in and see the progress and feel the love and the history here. Deep down it means something to so many people.
For questions about project restoration, call 903-948-9648 or email [email protected] Mail your donations to PO Box 2924, Palestine, Texas, 75802, ATTN: Project Restoration.