This story has been updated to reflect that church space is purchased, not leased.
NEW ALBANY – The historic City Clock Church is receiving major assistance in its efforts to support and enhance the New Albany site that once served as a link in the Underground Railroad.
Two grants were recently awarded to Town Clock Church, also known as Second Baptist Church.
The Floyd County Caesars Foundation Board of Directors has approved a $200,000 grant that will allow the church to purchase space adjacent to its property for staging and memorabilia storage.
Town Clock Church also received a $10,000 grant through a fund for projects that help protect important African American landmarks in Indiana.
The Caesars Foundation grant is providing funding to the church for a project that will also bring additional residential space to the city.
Sprigler Construction plans to raze a vacant house adjacent to East Main Street Church. According to council officials, the contractor will also rehabilitate another vacant commercial structure and turn it into an apartment block.
Under the agreement with the foundation, the first floor will be reserved for the church under the purchase contract.
Floyd County board member and chairman Shawn Carruthers said the house was vacant and in “pretty bad shape.”
The rehabilitation of the adjacent structure will further improve the block and provide residential space while helping the church, he said.
“It’s going to be used as sort of a staging area for tours as well as a place to put artifacts,” Carruthers said of the planned new space.
While the pandemic has obviously impacted most in-person events, the church is generally a popular location for field trips and visitor visits, in addition to hosting an active congregation. The imposing church tower was seen as a sign of hope for those seeking freedom after the building was completed in 1852.
Town Clock Church is also a passion of Jerry Finn, outgoing executive director of the Floyd County Caesars Foundation. Finn helped start Friends of the Town Clock Church, which spearheaded fundraising efforts for restorations and additions to the property.
While he stressed the project is a great use of funds because it helps improve the streetscape, adds residential space and supports the efforts of historic church members, Carruthers said the grant is also special because it’s also a way to thank Finn.
The late Standiford H. Cox was the first black chemist to work at Eli Lilly and Co. when he joined the company in 1957. He established two funds during his lifetime with the Central Indiana Community Foundation – the one named after him and the other his parents – who support causes related to the preservation of important African-American sites in Indiana.
The Indiana Landmarks African American Landmarks Committee is an advisor to both funds. In the last round of grants, the Standiford H. Cox Fund provided $135,000 for 15 different projects around the state.
Town Clock Church received $10,000 to help insulate the structure’s attic.