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Middleburg Prepares Asbury Church Restoration

© Leesburg Today - 07/31/2015

The Town of Middleburg is coming to the end of one project and starting out on the beginning of another.

Safety improvements at the intersection of Madison and Marshall streets are virtually complete, according to Town Administrator Martha Semmes.

The triangle intersection always was awkward to maneuver, but town leaders worried about the safety of students crossing the roads on their way to and from the Middleburg Community Charter School.

With the support of a federal grant, a new crosswalk and sidewalks are in place.

As that project ends, another is starting up. The historic Asbury Church, on North Jay Street, was donated to the town early this year by B Diversified Funding I LLC. The 1829 structure is the oldest surviving church building in Middleburg.

It was built as the first Methodist place of worship, until the congregation moved to a larger church built on Washington Street. During the Civil War, the building was used as a hospital by both sides. In 1864, Asbury Church became the first black church in town-remaining a center of religious activity for the black community until its use ceased in 1994.

The town has stabilized the structure and conducted some renovations, including repairing the eaves and patching holes in the roof through which the rain was entering the building and causing further problems. Semmes hopes to secure state and federal grant monies for the project to help with the preservation of the building.

The town wants to find a public use for the building once its restoration is complete and has invited the community to submit ideas.

The Town Council also authorized the creation of a technical advisory committee to oversee the renovation work. Semmes said the panel would convene once the structural analysis report is complete.

The committee includes some well-known local names-historian Phyllis Cooke-Taylor, a member of the Thomas Balch Library's Black History Committee who has worked on the building before; preservationist Jane Covington, architects Bill Turnure and Wayne Hughes, engineer Steve Plescow and builder Coe Eldredge. Kevin Hazard, who also has a background in construction, will serve as council liaison.

An accompanying piece of good news, Semmes said, is that the town has received a $12,500 Certified Local Government grant through the Department of Historic Resources to update the town's historic district survey. ""We'll match that 50 percent,"" Semmes said of the grant, which is administered by VDHR.

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