The former Cumberland Presbyterian church looks good on the inside since volunteers spruced it up, and already it’s become a center for community events.
On Sunday I read that the city-owned historic building would be open in the afternoon, so I stopped in. For some time now volunteers have organized themselves as a nonprofit that wants to turn the place into the Cumberland Community Events Center. The idea is to buy the old church from the city for one dollar, move it a quarter-mile to a vacant lot off Santiam Road (the lot to be bought from the city at a price yet to be determined), and restore or remodel the church there as a community center.
Last September the city council agreed to develop a contract to that effect, but no contract has yet been negotiated let alone signed.
The Cumberland group estimates the project will cost more than a million dollars and take a few years to complete. They’re hoping for grants. So far they’ve raised about $50,000.
But as it turns out, this little old former church already serves a purpose where it sits. In the last few months, Christmas parties have been held there along with a ballet recital and other events drawing scores of people. More are scheduled: a “family fun night” on Feb. 22, a genealogy lecture on March 19, and an egg hunt on Easter. Every third Sunday of the month, there’s an open house from 2 to 4 p.m.
The church was built there, at the corner of Santiam Road and Main Street, in 1892. In the 1920s it was enlarged. We’ve had automobiles for a century, and for all that time people have found to way to attend events there. The shortage of parking immediately outside the back door has never been a pressing problem, and it’s hard to see this as a compelling reason to move the building now.
Local history is the reason for wanting to preserve the building. But as for structures, isn’t location a big part of their historic significance? What is left of a landmark’s historic importance or interest once it is uprooted and moved?
Why not rethink this project? Why not avoid the massive fundraising and other hassles involved in the current direction? Instead, since the council majority wants to spend no money on this, let the Cumberland group have the building, and let them concentrate their considerable talents on saving the building for the benefit of the neighborhood where it sits. (hh)