SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - If you’ve walked near City Market in downtown Savannah, you might have noticed a historic church under construction.
The almost 250-year-old First African Baptist Church is getting some upgrades.
The steeple of the church has been removed and sits in the parking lot across the street while crews work to stabilize the building.
The church says the renovations will cost upwards of $600,000 and they are expected to be finished by the second week of December.
“We haven’t done any major work on it since the late 1800s and early 1900s, but now we are having to in fact restore where the bell was. The bell tower had deterioration. Because of that deterioration, it really made the building unsafe,” said Pastor Thurmond Tillman.
The church is continuing to meet inside, but they’ll have to relocate for crews to finish up during the last three weeks.
Among Savannah’s many historic houses of worship, the First African Baptist Church is especially unique — autonomously founded and built by slaves before the Civil War, this holy site has served as a sanctuary in numerous respects ever since the building’s completion in 1859.
However, time has taken its toll on this 160-year-old structure facing Franklin Square, so now a major restoration project is under way to repair and preserve the church inside and out. From reinforcing the leaky steeple to patching up aging stucco to renewing water-damaged ceilings, the total cost of this endeavor will reach $600,000, according to Rev. Thurmond Tillman, pastor of the church.
The oldest black church in North America located right here in Savannah is undergoing a major renovation.
First African Baptist Church is seeking the public’s help to assist with the growing costs.
The National Historic Landmark was built in 1859. It was established by members of the congregation who were slaves.
Construction is underway to preserve its rich history including its historic bell.
It’s one of the most historically significant buildings in Savannah.
First African Baptist Church has a long and storied history.
Now the landmark is getting an update.
Reverend Thurmond Tillman– pastor of First African Baptist– sat down with us on News 3 Today to talk about the church’s major restoration efforts.
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