Cross Tracks at a crossroads
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
As Liberty Hill grows around it by leaps and bounds, the congregation at Cross Tracks Church is fighting for the future of one of the community’s oldest landmarks.
Members of the church hope that the past is as important as the future for area residents and Liberty Hill will come together to help save the historic structure.
Cross Tracks Church, a Methodist church founded in 1854 in Liberty Hill, has a historic marker near the front right corner of the building that notes when the church was formed, and when the building was erected on the site, all the way back in 1870.
“I’m told this is the oldest building in Liberty Hill,” said Jim Turner, who along with his wife Pam are leading the restoration project. “We’re designated as a historical landmark so we have restrictions about what we can do to the outside. Whatever we do we have to submit plans to the state.”
The congregation has taken on projects as it can, recently refinishing the weather-damaged front doors.
“Originally, this was a three-story building at a different location, and they moved it over here brick by brick and at the time the first floor was dirt and the locals would ride their horses in during the heat of the summer then go upstairs for church services,” Jim said.
As the campaign for restoration begins, the church wants to tell its story and generate interest in the preservation effort.
“We’d love to have people come to our services and see what we’re about,” Pam said. “We’ve been doing the same thing for 165 years now, so we’re not going anywhere. We’d love to grow.”
The primary focus now is restoration and protection of the stained glass windows and a new roof. The Turners said the projection is that those two issues alone will cost about $100,000.
In Jim’s report to the church on what would need to be done, he was clear that this was no small task.
“This is not a repair job, this is a restoration,” he said. “We’re going to do our best to return this to what it looked like back in the day, with some exceptions. Our overall goal is to get as much done as we can with the funds that ultimately become available so that in the fall we can celebrate this as a historical landmark with the City of Liberty Hill.”
Pam added that they want to raise awareness, and let the community know there is a plan to save the structure.
The building is surrounded in stained glass, with a large window at the entrance, and very unique pieces throughout, especially behind the alter.
“We do have to rework all the windows,” Jim said. “I’ve got bids for those and we have to deal with the roof because it is leaking, so the roof is kind of a priority. But I want to get the bids done and the plans done and submit them by the end of February because that starts a 60-day clock.
“One of the guys that was here looking at the stained glass said we have a museum of stained glass pieces,” Jim said. “He said we have some real jewels there. Some of the windows need to be pulled out and taken into a shop to be restored, and some of them just need to be cleaned up. We’re going to replace the covers with tempered glass to restore the appearance.”
The roof is critical due to the disrepair, but also because no other work inside the church can be done until that repair is made.
“The flashing is leaking, the screws are coming up and it’s letting water in,” Jim said of the condition of the roof. “We want to protect the building first. All the wainscoting is real, back when they made real wainscoting so that has to be all pulled off and replaced. There is some rot around some of the windows up top, so it is all a big chunk of work.”
The congregation has worked hard to pull together a detailed history of the church as this process begins.
“The first building we had was a log cabin, but this is all stone from the area,” Pam said. “I have very clear documentation of each generation of the building. We have some of the records, but the very saddest part of everything is that a majority of what we had was lost when the fire happened last May. I have a few original documents and original pictures, including pictures of downtown Liberty Hill, but very few.”
The fire last May destroyed one of the three church buildings, and it will likely be replaced by a one-story building on the existing slab, said Jim. That project is separate from the new work being planned, but it all impacts how the church is able to function and worship.
“We definitely have our work cut out for us, from a fundraising perspective, a technical work perspective and a marketing perspective,” Jim said. “We’re hoping to create awareness because this is such a gem, for one. Two, we’re hoping to open up this thing to the community for large and small community events.”
The congregation is working to raise funds, but hopes the community at large will see the value of preserving the oldest building in town. Generating support from non-members can also be a big help as well in terms of landing grant funds.
“One of the grants we’re applying for requires that it has to not just be a house of worship, but it has to be a community resource,” Pam said. “With that, the funds are supposed to not just come from your congregation, but also from your community. Then they match what you raise up to $200,000. That’s where we need community involvement.”
The Turners are dedicated to building that awareness, and creating a partnership between the community and congregation so that the restoration can be completed.
“This is a family,” Pam said. “Jim loves antiques and woodworking and just has a passion to restore this to its glory.”
The engineer, project manager and architect laughed.
“Neither one of us are known for sitting around,” Jim said.