Volunteers work to stabilize historic Jones Gap Baptist Church

A volunteer effort Saturday, Nov. 17 at historic Jones Gap Baptist Church resulted in the emergency stabilization of the vintage 1913 structure on Hebron Road, which has an open hole in the sanctuary roof.

The volunteer day was a coordinated effort between Jamie Wood, a descendant of Hicks Jones (1841-1922), and the nonprofit Preservation North Carolina.

“We’re trying to stabilize the building from any more weather deterioration,” said Wood, who is hoping to get the attention of more descendants of Hicks Jones concerning the church property and ultimately “inspire some positive action.”

Ted Alexander, western regional director of Preservation NC, was on hand throughout the day to guide work crews.

“It’s a great property and it deserves to be preserved, both architecturally and in terms of the religious culture in this area,” said Alexander, who works in the Preservation NC office in Shelby.

After Wood reached out to Preservation NC last year, she and Alexander have been in communication over the last 12 months about the church building, which has been unused since a new church building was constructed across Hebron Road in the late 1990s.

“I knew we had a very wet summer and shared my concerns with (him),” Wood said. “I didn’t think it was going to get through the winter.”

Wood and her mother, Myrtle McCarson Marshall, are fifth- and fourth-generation descendants of Jones, who donated the land at the top of Jones Gap where the red neo-gothic church was built over a century ago. Hicks Jones was the son of road builder Solomon Jones (1802-1899).

Starting around 9 a.m., workers patched the roof with a large piece of plastic sheeting — the same kind used in billboard advertising, according to Aleaxander. A large hole in the northeast corner has let in rain and snow over the past few years.

Along with about 10 other volunteers — many with day jobs as carpenters and in construction-related industries — Alexander pitched in to help shovel debris from the church interior and assist in the installation of plastic sheeting over the roof, among other tasks. He said the sheeting should act as a barrier to the elements for around one or two years, adding that the condition of the church building is comparable to other properties Preservation NC works with.

“It’s in relatively good shape,” he said.

Jennifer Cathey, a restoration specialist with the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, was also at the site to help shovel debris from the building’s interior.

“We would love to see the property get some attention toward preservation and getting back into use,” she said. Wood had initially contacted the State Historic Preservation Office to get advice on the best route for preservation.

“We felt it certainly has lots of historic character, and referred them to Preservation North Carolina,” said Cathey, who thinks the elements of the structure, from its “picturesque” stained glass window and shingle, are worth preserving.

Wood, who lives in Waxhaw, appreciated the fact that the congregation of Jones Gap Baptist Church supported the workday by letting them hook up to electricity, use their bathrooms and park in the new church lot. She said the work day cost nothing as materials and labor, as well as pizzas for the crew’s lunch, were donated.

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(Hendersonville Times-News/Blueridgenow.com,  11/25/18)