Saturday, August 2, 2008

Abyssinian Restoration

"Restoration work on the historic Abyssinian Meeting House in Portland's East End will start Monday after 10 years of planning and preparation.

In the weeks ahead, staging will go up, the roof will be removed and bowed exterior walls will be pulled in, said Leonard Cummings Sr., chairman of the Committee to Restore the Abyssinian.

The work will undo decades of structural damage that started in the mid-1920s, when two floors and six apartments were added within the once-open sanctuary space.

Built in 1828, the Abyssinian is the nation's third-oldest black church, after meeting houses in Boston and Nantucket. It was part of the Underground Railroad that helped slaves find freedom.

It also was a school for black children when Portland's other schools were segregated, and it was one of few buildings in the East End to survive the Great Fire of 1866.

'This building is the pearl of the neighborhood with all it's been through and all it represents,' Cummings said. 'With this phase of the project, we're accomplishing major aspects of the restoration.'

Until now, the committee has focused on cleaning up and preventing further damage to the neglected building at 75 Newbury St., and studying the structure and grounds to determine its historical value and the best way to restore it.

The committee also has been trying" more...
- Portland Press Herald

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