INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Sept. 9, 2015)– It’s a piece of Indiana history along Indiana Avenue. That downtown street was once the hub of African American owned business and the jazz scene. But now one of the last pieces of property that reflect that time could be destroyed.
Tucked away along the downtown canal you’ll find one of the city’s most historic properties–Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The congregation has been worshiping there since 1915 and now developers have offered them millions to knock it down.
“The offers they have made are those we have to take seriously,” said Pastor Louis Parham.
Parham says the church is falling apart. A leaking roof with trash cans catching water from recent rain.
“The structure itself and the foundation those kinds of things with the roof, the underpinnings. Those are the type of things where massive funding is required to restore,” said Parham.
In all repairs would cost more than $2 million, money the church doesn’t have. So the congregation agreed to sell the building. But after major push back from the community they decided to hold off.
“This is a huge piece of Indiana history and it’s about to be wiped off the map,” said IUPUI professor Dr. Andrea Copeland.
Copeland got involved with the church to help them organize their historic archives. She’s now apart of a group of concerned citizens looking to raise money to make repairs to the church. She says the city can’t afford to lose this historical landmark. One of the last buildings that represent what Indiana Avenue once was.
“I mean they held on here when nobody would be here. They lived here when it wasn’t the great place it is to live now they have in essence made all of this possible but you won’t know it,” said Copeland.
A group out of Texas is coming to town next week to help the church apply for grant money to help with those repairs. The pastor says he’ll continue to hold those developers off–but if they can’t raise enough money they will be forced to sell the building.