The Portland Avenue Presbyterian Church was destroyed by fire in January, but now the congregation is drawing up plans to rebuild on the original site. After the fire was extinguished, the frigid January air turned the charred remains into an eerie icy scene. All but the steeple has been torn down, but the brick and stone from the original structure has been saved and will be used in the reconstruction (one of the massive original window frames was saved on site, too). Rev. Willa Fae Williams, pastor at Portland Avenue Presbyterian, says the church is too important to the congregation and the historic neighborhood to just abandon. The congregation has been growing recently and already is involved in outreach to the neighborhood.
A clothes closet and food pantry, once operated out of the basement of the original church, have been moved to the old Portland fire station. The old fire station had recently been vacated after a new Portland station opened in February. Long range plans include possibly renovating the abandoned Kroger store adjacent to the church into a community outreach center and a permanent home to the clothes closet and food pantry.
The rebuilt church is expected to look much like the original, which had just undergone restoration prior to the fire. The entrance to the new church will be at ground level to more easily accommodate handicap accessibility. Crews were on site today securing the steeple to keep it water tight. Officials have not been able to determine what caused the blaze earlier this year, and have not ruled out arson at this point. Rev. Williams hopes construction on the new church could begin early next year.
- Portland Avenue Presbyterian Church Burns (Broken Sidewalk)