A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Doomed or not: Inside Cumberland Church

Written July 29th, 2018 by Hasso Hering

Last time I saw the inside of the former Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Albany it was a jumbled mess, used for storage and not much else. As the video below shows, on Saturday the inside was still old and worn, but picked up and clean.

Volunteers from the east Willamette Neighborhood want the city council to help save the church. They spent three days moving the stored stuff out of the way and generally cleaning the place up before visitors got a look inside on Saturday’s tour of historic houses.

[youtube video=”IqIhRoc5qZw”]

The city of Albany has owned the building at Santiam Road and Main Street since buying the property for $150,000 in 2000 to make room for a street project. On July 9 the council voted 4-2 to try to find a buyer who would move the building to a site not owned by the city.

Last year a mayor’s work group recommended moving the church a short distance up Santiam Road to city-owned land near Hackleman Park and restoring it as a community center to be run by the parks department. But the proposal went nowhere. Four council members — Coburn, Johnson, Kellum, and Sykes — don’t want to obligate city funds for a costly move and restoration, or long-term maintenance expenses, in view of the city’s many other obligations.

Supporters of saving the church are not ready to give up. They started a website (savethecumberland.us) and are encouraging people to contact the council. Maybe they are hoping to flip at least one of the four opponents. That would yield a 3-3 council deadlock, which Mayor Sharon Konopa could break in favor of going ahead with the move and possibly the restoration, using urban renewal funds from CARA, the Central Albany Revitalization Area.

The church was built in 1892 and later enlarged with the addition of the middle section. As visitors Saturday could see, the inside has been chopped up with partitions and false ceilings. The colorful windows remain, but the stained glass suffers from a sloppy exterior paint job.

For now, the council has asked parks Director Ed Hodney to keep exploring a sale of the property to the Baldwin construction company,which has its offices next door. No word on the progress or outcome of that. (hh)

One of the windows at the Cumberland Church. This one faces Main Street.

The main room. Pews have been moved to a raised section of the floor.

Posted in: Commentary, News

9 responses to “Doomed or not: Inside Cumberland Church”

  1. J. Jacobson says:

    Oregon is the “least churched” state in the Union. It is no surprise there’s little support for the abandoned hulk. If there is support out there, we are not seeing it in the way of cash donations. And waiting for a Council member to flip on the move-option seems politically opportunistic, hardly in line with the basic tenets of Christendom. Join the rest of the great unchurched. Sell the shell, take the money, put it into something Oregonians value.

  2. James Engel says:

    For once (in a long line of my protests) this is a project I wouldn’t mind if CARA threw some money at. And enough to do it properly! The place has some charm & character. With some well planned out ideas it could be an “eastern anchor” as much as the Carousel is a “western anchor” for our City. Maybe the city council ought to do a few laps around the nearby round-a-bout to get their collective heads straight.

  3. Dala Rouse says:

    Several years ago there was a group of people that wanted to save Albany’s first frame house. The city applied for a federal grant and purchased the property. Originally the house was free if someone would move it but the City Council with the help of Councilor Dick Olsen bought the property where the Monteith House sits today. The Monteith Historical Society did numerous fundraisers and restored the house without city funds. They did bingo every week for years besides other fundraisers which they still do. Old houses take a lot of work. The city has since paid for new roofs and house painting. The Monteith Historical Society manages the house and as the original grant keeps the house open to the public on certain days. We now receive motel taxes to help us do that but still do numerous activities to raise other monies. The point I am getting at is the Parks Dept. has limited funds and has their hands full with the parks. If someone wants to save the church which I support get to work and don’t expect the city to do it all.

  4. Westside Gal says:

    Interior looks much better than I had expected. Church would make a nice gathering place for the east side of town. Preservation of building would be a plus for community in the longterm.

  5. Katherine says:

    I think it is sad that a city such as Albany, which is so proud of it’s historic past, is not willing to be responsible for it’s own historic acquisitions. This is a perfect CARA project.
    Recently a property owner that bought 3 dilapidated properties at a bargain price in the Montheith asked the city for a cool MILLION to renovate them. I see they they are boarded up. Perhaps they are waiting on the city’s decision. In the end he and his family will benefit from the improvements.
    Here is a project with Cumberland Church that will benefit the community as a whole if the city had the foresight to preserve, protect and enhance this building for our future generations to use and appreciate. Do the right thing Albany City Council.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      The request you mention — for CARA assistance on three houses — was withdrawn before it got to the CARA board.

      • Katherine says:

        Thanks Hasso for the update. I thought it had. Perhaps they will come back with a more reasonable amount to ask for.

  6. Stephanie says:

    I’m apparently missing some backstory, but I don’t understand why the church needs to be moved to be restored. The city is sitting on a property it doesn’t need and appears to want to sell it. Why not allow groups to try to raise the funds to buy it and restore it where it stands? Why does the city want Baldwin Construction to buy the property?


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