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Saving the sanctuary ‘Sacred Places’ grant helps St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church restore its historic building BY Davis Allen PHOTOS BY ITS PRESENCE on St. Charles Avenue is commanding, with a tall bell tower and Spanish Colonial Revival-style ornamen- tation unlike any other church in New Orleans’ steeple-dotted skyline. Mostly unseen from the street, however, are serious wa- ter issues that are deteriorating the large, 95-year-old sanctuary. The problems have become increasingly challenging for the church’s modest-sized congregation to handle. Now, thanks to a grant from the National Fund for Sacred Places, St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church is getting ready to undertake a full resto- ration of its historic building, a project that will secure a sustain- able future for the site. Last fall, the National Fund for Sacred Places selected the church and nine other historic houses of worship across the country to receive preservation grants. The fund is a collabo- ration between the Partners for Sacred Places and the National 16 PRESERVATION IN PRINT • PRCNO.org Charles E. Leche Trust for Historic Preservation, providing matching grants for community-serving faith groups. Grants range from $50,000 to $250,000 and assist applicants with restoration of historic spaces to strengthen their community outreach. Led by the Rev. Elizabeth Mangham Lott, St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church is the first congregation in Louisiana to receive a grant from the National Fund. The grant will help to pay for a renovation to secure the sanctuary’s building envelope, mitigate deterioration and water issues, restore historic wood windows and plaster walls as well as update the building’s HVAC and elec- trical systems. The congregation dates to the 1880s, but its current site at 7100 St. Charles Ave. is the church’s third home. The sanctuary is the oldest building at the current campus, and was designed by local architecture firm Favrot and Livaudais in 1925 with a MARCH 2020