Caro city officials are turning to the community for help in deciding what to do with a former church building on the National Register of Historic Places — and in “tremendous need of repair.”
The former Old Trinity Episcopal Church building, 102 Joy St., Caro (see map below) — now used mostly as storage for the Thumb Area Center for the Arts — is in need of an estimated $400,000 in repairs.
The topic was discussed at a March 2 Caro capital projects committee, and again at last week’s Caro city council meeting.
The building is owned by the city, and officials face finding the answer to one question: save the historic building constructed in 1880 or demolish it?
“The last time we got figures on (repairing the building), it was almost $400,000,” said Mike Henry, council member, Caro city council (and member of the capital projects committee). “That was 2009 and nothing has improved on it.”
“We have to decide what kind of direction we’re going to move with it,” Henry said.
Henry said the committee recommended an open house to allow members of the public to see the extent of repairs needed, and to provide any additional comments and/or suggestions.
“Maybe somebody else can come up with an idea thinking outside the box,” Henry said. “We need to get the public involved.”
Henry said issues identified with the building include roof damage, the need to be repainted, and a “sinking” bell tower.
Henry said that the estimated $400,000 in repairs “is a lot of money to stick into a building that is going to continue to need that kind of repair.”
Caro Mayor Joe Greene added that “even after you spend that much money, the use is extremely limited.”
The church was built in 1880 to house a congregation organized in 1871. The building was sold in 1934 to the Church of the Nazarene, which occupied the church until 1974. It was added to the National Historic Register in 1975.
The historical marker at the site reads:
“This skillfully designed board and batten Gothic Revival church, first served local Episcopalians in 1880. The congregation had been formed in 1871, the year the town was incorporated. During the 1870s, Caro grew to be a major commerce center for the Thumb Area. By the 1920s, however, church membership dropped and the building was sold to the Nazarenes. In 1974 preservationists saved the church from demolition.”
Local historian Mark Putnam provided some additional background on the building:
“The Gothic Revival style was chosen more for houses that were in small towns or that were rural. For churches, the Gothic Revival style was very popular. Carpenter Gothic style, a variation of the Gothic Revival style, has vertical board and batten wooden siding, pointed arches and incised wooden trim similar to that of the Old Trinity Church in Caro. With Gothic Revival, roofs are pitched steeply. The Gothic Revival style church has pointed arch windows and porticos and also a castle-like tower.”
Thumb Area Center for the Arts rents the building for $3,000 annually, said Ryan Piche, city manager, Caro. He said use by TACA is limited.
Piche also said buildings on the National Historic Register can be torn down.
If such buildings are repaired, he said, they have to be brought up to National Historic Register codes, which he said is “quite expensive.”
Henry said an open house involving the public was suggested because “historical buildings can be a pretty touchy subject for a lot of people.”
Piche said he would put together a presentation that includes details from the 2009 quote along with pictures from in and around the building. It was decided that the public would not be able to go inside the building due to safety concerns.
The open house to discuss the building is set for 6:30 p.m. on April 3, prior to the regularly scheduled city council meeting at the Caro Municipal Building.
Andrew Dietderich is editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org