Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Church relocation hits a snag

For 57 years, Holy Cross Catholic Church stood at the eastern edge of N.C. Central University's campus. This morning, it was expected to be at the western edge of campus.

But the church's cross-campus move proved more difficult than expected and, as a result, it's standing in a driveway next to NCCU's Alfonso Elder Student Union.

"I'm afraid it will be next Saturday" before the move can be finished, mover Charlie Blake said Sunday.

Moving the 234-ton, stone-clad church started Friday morning and was scheduled to have been completed Saturday afternoon. Nothing in particular went wrong, Blake said, "except a few of the odds and ends that happen on a job like that."

Blake, founder of Black Moving Co., said he would have a better idea when moving can continue after he confers with utility companies today. A number of power and communication lines must be moved or raised to accommodate the church's 36-foot spire.

"It's a tedious job," said David Buie, a campus police officer watching over the building Sunday afternoon. But Buie said he was glad the university was preserving history.

Holy Cross was created as a mission church for black Catholics in 1939. Its first building opened in 1942 at 1400 S. Alston Ave., with the sanctuary - the part being moved - dedicated in 1953. Eventually, the congregation outgrew its building. It sold the property to NCCU and moved to a new church in 2006.

The old church stood in the way of the university's new nursing school, but instead of razing it, NCCU Chancellor Charles Nelms wanted to relocate and preserve it.

"One of the best decisions Chancellor Nelms has made," Buie said.

Next to the student union building, the church rested on 19 steel beams atop 12 eight-wheeled trailer trucks.

"No Trespassing" signs hung from lines of yellow caution tape that marked off a broad area around the church.

Buie had the area to himself Sunday afternoon, but he said that earlier in the day people had come to see the venerable sanctuary and relive memories of baptisms, weddings and other occasions celebrated inside.

"It's a jewel," Buie said.

The state legislature provided $2 million to relocate the building, which has a new foundation awaiting it next to the prairie-style Shepard House, built in the 1920s for NCCU founder James Shepard.

The university plans to use the Holy Cross building for a community meeting place.


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