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Wellsville Foundation aiming to reopen tabernacle for Founder’s Day

December 7th, 2013 Posted in Opinion

Story and photo by Manda Perkins

WELLSVILLE – Since the closing of the historic tabernacle in 2010, the Wellsville Foundation has advocated for funds to re-open the city landmark. According to foundation president Kaylene Ames, the date is tentatively set for Founder’s Day, Sept. 5 of next year.

The historic Wellsville Tabernacle. Photo by Manda Perkins.

“We went from zero dollars to nearly $50,000 this year through local fundraising efforts and donations from our citizens,” said Ames. “It is always amazing to receive such generosity from local citizens. There is something in our hearts that make us want to help preserve the local heritage of the community. I think the tabernacle is the icon of that heritage.”

The foundation has calculated $150,000 is needed to re-open the tabernacle. This would fund the repair of the overstressed roof girders and sagging ceiling frame, and add new wooden posts to support the girder trusses.

Wilma Hall, historian and co-author of “Windows of Wellsville,” said the tabernacle stands as a monument of the city’s rich pioneer heritage. “It was built almost entirely by church members with individual sacrifice,” she said. “It stands majestically in the town square as a monument to the deep-rooted faith and hard-working spirit of these people… It’s probably the most important structure on the south end of the valley.”

Construction of the tabernacle was begun in April of 1902 by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Hall said the architecture of the building itself is remarkable, with a 135-foot spire and arched, vaulted ceilings.

“You can imagine what it would take to build that, because they didn’t have the equipment we have today,” she said. “Rocks for the foundation quarried in the mountains out of town… Everybody, young people, old people − they all worked to get the money to build it. The labor was done by local people.”

Ownership of the building was passed from the The Church to Wellsville City in 1979. It was then used as a city center; growing up in Wellsville, Hall said she remembers many Christmas celebrations, concerts and social gatherings being held there. In 1994, the Wellsville Foundation was given ownership of the building, and it has continued to be used for that purpose.

“We had been renting out every room,” said Ames. “We were generating income to keep it open, so we actually had a survey done for a new heating and cooling system when they found that the trusses in the roof wasn’t capable of bearing the roof.”

The foundation is actively requesting grants and donations to aid in the cause. Ames said she is grateful for RAPZ funding, the percentage of restaurant taxes designated to fund local historic institutions, and for community members and their extended families who have donated.

“When you go to the East Coast or across the county everyone wants to save the historical buildings,” she said. “So it’s interesting how new and improved the West is… more people would prefer convenience and not so much of a pioneer heritage.”

Hall agreed with the tabernacle’s important role as part of the Wellsville community.

“It’s the last pioneer structure in our town that the pioneers built that building for their descendants to enjoy. If we lose that tabernacle, the loss of the historical significance would be very great.”


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