Chapel house getting some overdue TLC

Volunteers working with Colorado’s Most Endangered Places pull the old roof off the chapel house at the Handy Chapel on Tuesday afternoon. The chapel is located within the original square mile platted by Grand Junction’s founder, George Crawford.

As she watched volunteers peel away the warped cedar shards of Handy Chapel’s chapel house roof Tuesday morning, Barbara Anderson was sure past congregants would be proud to see their church and the adjacent home returning to their former glory.

“My grandfather and great-uncle would be ecstatic” to see the 119-year-old church and 1920s-era chapel house restored, Anderson said.

The church and the chapel house are being refurbished through Friday by volunteers organized by preservation group HistoriCorps.

Handy Chapel, named this year to Colorado’s Most Endangered Places list, is one of nine places selected for a HistoriCorps restoration project this summer. Volunteers have demolished a dilapidated porch on the west side of the house and will spend the rest of the week stabilizing the front porch and replacing the chapel house roof. The congregation will learn Aug. 1 if it will receive a grant to help pay for restoration of the chapel’s roof, according to Patrick Eidman, manager of the Endangered Places Program, a collaborator with HistoriCorps on the project.

If there’s time, some extra painting and fence repair may be squeezed in before the project wraps Friday afternoon.

Many of the 12 to 18 volunteers have construction experience, and some have experience preserving historic buildings. Bill Yett of Delta worked on a HistoriCorps project last year in Lake City and decided to volunteer for the Handy Chapel project because of its proximity to Delta.

“It will look as much like the original as it can within reason” when the project is complete, Yett said.

Without projects like the one happening this week, Yett said, the chapel house may have fallen apart within a few years.

“This is how we lose historic structures, is lack of maintenance,” he said. “If they’re not used, they deteriorate.”

Anderson and her husband, Bernie, attended the historically black church as children. The couple returned to the church and the Grand Valley six years ago after 30 years in New Orleans. Even with the addition of two members, the church is struggling to get eight to 12 people through the door each Sunday.

Barbara Anderson said she hopes the restoration project attracts more people to the church. Even if it doesn’t, Bernie Anderson said he’s just happy the project will preserve a part of Grand Junction’s history.

“I think it’s wonderful,” he said of the project. “Not only is it wonderful for us, the people who use the church, it’s wonderful for the whole community.”


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