Mount Vernon AME Church was one of eight historic structures placed on the Preservation Texas' 2015 Most Endangered places list on Thursday.
Members of the Mt. Vernon AME Church Project Restoration Committee met in Austin to receive the announcement on Thursday. Tabitha Enge said that she along with Bernadine Taylor, Julie Alston and Edwina Miller were the first to arrive at the program.
“The program was the most enlightening program we have ever attended,” Taylor said. “We met people from all around Texas with historic landmarks that were also endangered.”
By 10 a.m., the group left the Robert E. Johnson building to continue the program at the Texas State Capitol building. The Texas Legislature was in session and the group was seated in a designated area during the meeting, Enge said. The meeting's focus was on the information about Preservation Day 2015, Enge recalled.
“Gaining entrance into the Capitol is quite like boarding a plane at the airport,” Taylor said. “They scanned our belongings and we had to walk through a body scanner.”
After the session ended, the group was taken to the front steps of the capitol to receive acknowledgement of being placed on the list and for a photo opportunity.
“We are proud of all the people of Anderson County who helped us with our efforts and their donations,” Taylor said. “This is the second half of our project. The first half and the beginning of restoring Mt. Vernon started with the late Nancy Taylor, a member of the Palestine Historical Commission and the Palestine Historical Preservation Commission during her time as coordinator. She and the Mt. Vernon members replaced the leaking roof that has kept the church from further damage as Tabitha takes the initiative to work the second half of restoring Mt. Vernon.
“It means everything to the members, the community, and Palestine to work with us in restoring this endangered building Judge John H. Reagan, who donated the land this building is standing on. The church in Palestine is rich in history. We are proud of our city and the people that live here can be proud of the history of Palestine.”
Other historic sites added to the endangered list included the Historic Resources of Dickens County in Dickens and Spur, the Laguna Hotel in Cisco, the Rio Vista Farm in Socorro, the Falls County Courthouse in Marlin, the Addie L. & A.T. Odom Homestead in Burkeville, the Historic Structures in Municipal Parks statewide, and the Texas & Pacific Warehouse in Forth Worth, according to a release from Preservation Texas.
Taylor said the acknowledgement gives the church a “status” in Texas and recognition that the building needs to be restored to preserve its historic value to the community.
“It's 142 years old and we can't just let that go by without letting the whole world know,” Taylor said. “We want our church to be internationally known. So they will want to get here and she our church.”
“It (recognition of endangered places) puts us in a spot light,” Enge said. “It lets the donors, architects, and construction companies know that the community is about to lose something important and encourage them to work together to preserve the building.”
The committee members will now be planning fundraisers to save money for the restoration. The group will also be looking for younger members to ensure the committee's work will continue.