10/14/12 — Association sets sights on new roof for building

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Association sets sights on new roof for building

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on October 14, 2012 1:50 AM

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Town Meeting Hall

The Wayne County Historical Association is raising funds to preserve a part of local history.

The 1856 Presbyterian Church, or Town Meeting Hall as it's also known, is located at the corner of Ash and James streets and is the oldest building downtown, said Emily Weil, vice president of the historical association.

"We had been renting it to a church for some while and didn't realize what bad repair the building had gotten into," she said. "The church finally told us there was a bad roof leak. We checked it and realized it was to the point that we had to put on a new roof."

Members of the historical association also discovered that the roof had been there for 90 years.

"I supposed it had lived a good life," Mrs. Weil said.

Bids were taken and a roofer was selected to do the job. Work began this past week.

The historical association is trying to raise $80,000 so that a new roof can be put on and any understructure damage because of repeated roof leaks could also be repaired.

Mrs. Weil noted that the roof has been patched many times over the years, but never totally replaced.

She said the old Town Meeting Hall is unique in that it is an unusual example of Greek Revival architecture, which is pretty rare.

"It's also unique because it has a square cupola on top," Mrs. Weil said. "It has a Greek-style pediment with two basic pillars. And it's actually a brick structure with plaster put on top of it so it looks like stucco."

There are stained glass windows on either side of the building. And it has a pressed tin ceiling, which means it's made with squares of metal that have been pressed with a design.

Inside the building is an old pipe organ that has been there since 1920. Although it needs some repair, it still plays, Mrs. Weil said.

Some might say it's an old building, just tear it down.

But not Mrs. Weil.

"I feel that what happened before us does affect us whether we know it or not," she said. "The things that people sacrificed to make happen should be preserved, especially if they're unique and make a statement that's not easily replicable. I think what makes a town unique is the old buildings that have been preserved and make it look different from other towns.

"I think the fact that the Presbyterian congregation back in 1850 right before the war was able to get together enough money to build a really substantial building like that and it has survived that war and all the wars that have come since, it says a lot about the people that were there and the people that still have memories of going to church there before the one was built out on Ash Street."

Mrs. Weil said there is an ambiance inside that gives people a different feel than they get from walking into just any building.

"You know you're in a special place when you walk in," she said. "You can almost feel the people who went there before. It has the light affected by the beautiful stained glass windows, the beautiful pipe organ in the front with the pipes exposed. It's a fair sized building with a really high ceiling. It has almost a holy feeling, it really does."

Jane Rustin, also with the historical association, said the old Town Meeting Hall is very important to this community.

"It's a valuable piece of our history and our heritage," she said. "That it be preserved is extremely important. The renovation is really important in our community future as we celebrate our past."

The historical association will be raising money in a variety of different ways.

There has been direct mail to members of the historical association and also people who are supporters of the community.

There will be a Christmas candlelight tour of churches downtown and a craft fair with at least 17 vendors who make their own craft items.

An organ concert is being planned.

And Santa will be at the old Town Meeting Hall between Thanksgiving and Christmas to have his photo taken with children.

Anyone wanting to make a donation for the restoration project can send it to the Wayne County Historical Association, P.O. Box 665, Goldsboro, N.C., 27533.

"We're going to have considerable expense, but we feel like it's worth it just to preserve a building like that," Mrs. Weil said. "We hope in three or four months time to have it in good enough shape that people can begin to use it for meetings, weddings and other community functions."