Historic namesake for German Church Road facing demolition

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Historic preservation groups are fighting to save a 1914 church at the northeast corner of Washington Street and German Church Road in Cumberland. The congregation of St. John United Church of Christ has been working on plans to build a new church on Carroll Road and struck a deal to sell the old one to a developer. The plans are rumored to include demolition to make way for a CVS store. (There’s a Walgreens across the street.)

But the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana applied to the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission earlier this month seeking emergency designation of the building to save it. The church, historically known as Deutsche Evangelische-St Johannes Kirche, was built at a cost of $30,000 in the Tudor Gothic Revival style and features "extraordinary" stained glass windows. The IHPC granted the request, and the Metropolitan Development Commission will take up the issue on Nov. 4.

The shrinking congregation of about 366 members can no longer to afford maintenance and renovations needed on the building, an estimated $1.3 million over the next 10 years, said board member Larry Miller. Selling the parcel would give the church an opportunity to add desperately needed child-care and other facilities to attract a younger membership base, he said. About 85 percent of the congregation is over 65. Members are upset that people with no stake in the church’s future are trying to block the sale and redevelopment of the property. "We feel like we’re being picked on," Miller said.

UPDATE:  The MDC opted to continue the hearing until Dec. 2 after church officials agreed to hold off on applying for demolition permits.

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