Historic Church Will Go to Make Way for CHO Extended Runway
A central Virginia landmark will soon be no more. The Pleasant Grove Baptist Church is coming down piece by piece. But even when it's gone, it won't be forgotten.
James Thomas was baptized at the church when he was 8 years old, and has been a member ever since.
"You didn't realize that it meant that much to the community until they started talking about taking it down," Thomas said.
The church was built in 1875 but now, one of the oldest African-American churches in central Virginia is becoming a skeleton.
"I guess we were in the way of progress," Thomas said. "Progress moves on,"
When the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport (CHO) extended the runway, the church fell into the runway protection zone.
"If an airplane fell short of the runway, there's no structures that would be in jeopardy," said William Pahuta, interim executive director of CHO.
As workers tore out the church's floorboards, they found the markers of the congregation's Sunday best.
"You get those spike heel shoes, they can do some damage in a wood floor," Thomas said. "A lot of the floors in there look like they had been stamped."
And just as the congregation left its mark on this building, the building is leaving behind a bit of its light. The original stained-glass windows were chiseled out of their frames and will be moved to the church's new home just down the road.
Thomas says the windows will help the congregation mix the old with the new.
"Nice to look back on the past but you can't dwell on it. We can look back on this as a great building stone," Thomas said.
He hopes the new building will serve them as well as the old one did. The congregation is already meeting on Sundays in their new home on Earlysville Road. Once they've finished saving certain pieces, the rest of the church will be demolished at the end of the month.
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