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Friday, May 24, 2024

Jamestown’s Memorial Church is more than 100 years old. Now it’s getting a facelift

A century-old brick church that towers over Jamestown Island is getting a facelift.

Preservation Virginia plans to repair and renovate the Memorial Church in the James Fort, said Michael Lavin, director of Collections & Conservation for Jamestown Rediscovery.

The work will be “mostly concentrated on the envelope of the structure,” Lavin said. “The stepped parapets at the top are starting to show their age. The building is over 100 years old.”

The church was constructed in 1906 and the repairs are intended to restore it to its original condition.

In addition to the parapets, Lavin said some of the glass window panes are broken or faded and will be fixed or repainted.

They will repair the ridge of the building’s roof, make sure water can’t seep through where the parapets and the roof meet, and give some “TLC” to the door frames, Lavin added.

“Everything is concentrating on keeping the building dry and restored to its original glory,” Lavin said.

The external buttresses will also receive some attention from masons.

He expects the repairs to be completed, at the latest, by mid-April. He added he has received bids from multiple masons but he’s taking care to select the right people for the job.

“You need to use a very light hand when dealing with the masonry,” Lavin said. “It’s a very sensitive project. You need to pick somebody that’s very familiar with historic masonry.”

The Memorial Church itself stands where three 17th-century churches were built in the first permanent English colony on what is now American soil. In 1619, the first representative government in the Western Hemisphere convened on the site.

“The Memorial Church sits directly on top of the 1640s brick church and it gives you a visual representation of what that historic church looked like,” Lavin said.

Archaeologists have been excavating the church for two years as they research the foundations of the historic churches and the colonists who were buried there.

The interior Memorial Church at Historic Jamestowne. Archaeologists Mary Anna Hartley and Bob Chartrand excavate along the northern wall to the left of the frame. The chancel- the holiest place in the church- lies in the background along the eastern wall. (Andrew Harris/WYDaily)

The work is made possible thanks to a $52,000 grant from the National Society of Colonial Dames of America, according to a news release from Preservation Virginia. The NSCDA constructed the church before gifting it to the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities – the predecessor to Preservation Virginia – in 1907.

“It’ a very good start,” Lavin said. “It’s probably going to cover the majority of the work.”

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