Handy Chapel added to endangered places list
Many have been saved inside Handy Chapel at 200 White Ave. Now it’s the chapel’s turn for salvation.
Colorado Preservation Inc. added the downtown church and five other historic sites around the state to Colorado’s Most Endangered Places List during a luncheon Thursday in Denver. The list, which also includes Grand Junction’s historic train depot, aims to call attention to preservation of buildings at risk of closing or falling apart.
Josephine Dickey, a Handy Chapel member is “thrilled to death” about the chapel making the list. As great-granddaughter of one of the church’s original members, William Austin, Dickey has strong roots in the church and remembers the days when people from larger cities stranded in Grand Junction would seek help and always receive it from the historically black church.
“It did not matter what race or nationality or creed you were, it was the need” that mattered, she said.
Dickey also remembers the bad times, like nearly 30 years ago, when the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a denomination that operated in the chapel, decided the Grand Junction branch had been abandoned and sold the church out from under members.
“When I heard they sold it, I said, ‘No, no, no, that cannot be right,’” Dickey said.
A court agreed with her, citing Grand Junction Founder George Crawford’s rule that churches on White Avenue would have to remain churches, or the property would have to be returned to the city. The judge who presided over the case deeded the chapel to the local black community, something Dickey said many in town may not realize.
While Dickey attends the chapel on Sundays, her nephew, Harry Butler, presides over services on Saturdays, when the local Certain Place of the Seventh Day congregation meets there. Butler, who became ordained in 1992, grew up in the church and even lived in the parsonage there after getting married in 1963.
Butler said anyone is welcome at the church.
“It’s not like a club or anything. We have an open-door policy,” he said.
Butler said he wants to see the building continue as a church for years to come, but he admits, “It does need some work.”
“Cracks need to be repaired. Some painting could be done. The roof needs work,” he said.
Dickey said she would love to see some work done on the chapel, but she hopes people will chip in and not wait for others to step in first.
“To me, it is the worst-looking church in Grand Junction, and that’s a shame, but we should contribute to keeping it up,” she said. “This (list) will help us. This will get us started.”