By Kathryn G. Menu
Pierson High School senior Dana Harvey plans to raise over $30,000 for the restoration of the bell tower at the St. David African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church in the historic Eastville neighborhood of Sag Harbor. For both Harvey, and Sag Harbor United Methodist Church Pastor Tom MacLeod, the hope is this community-based project will shine a light on the historic church, built in 1839 and believed to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad and a center of the abolitionist movement.
Harvey is a member of Boy Scout Troop 455 of Sag Harbor and hopes to attain the highest level of the Boy Scouts by earning an Eagle Scout badge. On Thursday, November 8, 17-year-old Harvey, whose parents are the owners of D & D Harvey Architects, earned approval from the Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) for a building permit, which will allow him to restore the cupola bell tower as his Eagle Scout project.
The project will also entail replacement of the church’s roof, which according to Harvey will be redone with a new foundation and a layer of cedar shingles.
“It’s an Eagle Scout project and we will try to make the community aware of this church because it is kind of dilapidated, but a huge part of the African American history of this village,” said Harvey’s father, David, during last Thursday’s ARB meeting.
The project was unanimously approved.
On Monday, the younger Harvey — who at this point plans to pursue a degree in engineering after high school — said he was introduced to this project by Pastor MacLeod, whose church found a temporary home at St. David’s AME Zion Church before it opened the doors of its own new church on Carroll Street in October of 2010.
D & D Harvey Architects designed the Sag Harbor United Methodist Church’s new building — which was how Pastor MacLeod became familiar with the Harvey family and one of the reasons he believed this project would be a perfect fit for Dana.
“I didn’t really know much about the church, but once I started working on this, I feel like I have learned a lot,” said Harvey.
Harvey, Pastor MacLeod and Harvey’s parents went to St. David’s earlier this year to scope out the dimensions of the cupola and also find out if the original church bell, long obscured and believed to have been sold, was still within the boarded up cupola. Unable to access the space from the inside, Harvey said they were able to open the cupola through a louver from the roof and discovered the original bell was in fact still there.
Now that the scout has village approval to move forward with the project, a remaining critical piece is the funding side of the equation. While the cupola bell tower itself will not be cost prohibitive, coupled with the replacement of the roof — critical for the long term stability of the bell tower and church — Harvey estimates he will need to raise about $30,600.
“We have sent letters to a bunch of churches that might be able to help with the donations and now we need to see how much funding we can raise through the community,” he said.
For Pastor MacLeod, whose congregation occupied St. David’s AME Zion Church after selling its historic Madison Street home in favor of building a new church on Carroll Street, any work that can shine a light on the church’s past and the Eastville community is important work.
“That bell tower has literally not rung in 25 years,” said Pastor MacLeod on Tuesday. “I am really hoping this can highlight some of the history of the church. This would also be a great way to unite the community around fundraising for this bell tower.”
Currently the home of Pastor Michael Jackson’s Triune Baptist Church, the building is owned by the Oyster Bay-based AME Zion Church, which approved this project in September. Originally constructed in 1839 by African Americans and Native Americans on Eastville Avenue off Route 114, it is believed to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. According to the Eastville Community Historical Society, the founding Pastor, Reverend P. Thompson was a noted Abolitionist and colleague of Frederick Douglas.
While the Eastville Community Historical Society, the Sag Harbor United Methodist Church and the Triune Baptist Church have all funded repairs on the site, Pastor MacLeod noted that because the building was empty for several years it did deteriorate rather rapidly, making a project like this critical to preserving Sag Harbor history.
“We have opened up the Sag Harbor United Methodist Church Mission and Outreach account of our church for people to donate to this project as a tax deductible contribution,” said Pastor MacLeod. “One hundred percent of the proceeds will go towards this restoration.”
Community members interested in donating to the project can send funding to The Sag Harbor United Methodist Church Mission and Outreach Account, P.O. Box 1146, Sag Harbor, NY 11963 with the subject line specifying the monies should go directly towards the St. David’s AME Zion Church bell tower cupola project.