Savoy plans may mean end of former church

SAVOY — A prominent piece of Savoy's history may soon be up for grabs.

On the north side of Church Street, in the part of town locals affectionately refer to as "old town," stands the former United Methodist Episcopal Church. The building currently serves as offices for the Savoy Public Works Department but will soon no longer be needed as the village pursues a redevelopment of the area.

The building at 114 W. Church St. is actually the second Savoy Methodist Episcopal Church at the location.

In 1886, a building committee from the Methodist congregation was formed with the intention of constructing a church building on the property, which committee president J.H. Dunlap donated for that purpose. The building was blown down once during construction, but was completed and dedicated on Jan. 9, 1887.

On Feb. 10, 1895, fire destroyed both the church and the parsonage. Just seven months later, the new church building — the one that still there today — was completed.

By 1970, the Methodist community had grown to 179 members, and a new church building was constructed on Graham Drive. The name was changed to the Savoy United Methodist Church. A year later, the original church building was sold to the village of Savoy for $12,500.

The building was used as the Savoy Village Hall from 1971-2004, when the new Savoy Municipal Center at 611 N. Dunlap was completed. After that, the former church building was converted to the offices for the village's public works department.

Now, a new public works building is being constructed just west of the Savoy Municipal Center. Once the building is complete, all public works offices will be transferred there, and the former church will be left vacant.

As part of their longterm plans, village officials hope to reinvent West Church Street as a "town center." The area will be developed as a mixed-use neighborhood commercial development, where residents can walk or bike to and get a sandwich or a cup of coffee.

The redevelopment of the area leaves the future of the former church building uncertain. While village officials would like to preserve what they can, its current location doesn't fit with the redevelopment plans.

"We're not sure what's going to happen with the building," village manager Richard Helton said. "At some point we'll check with not-for-profit organizations to see if there is a want they have to maybe move the building. But that would be awfully expensive."

Helton said the more likely scenario would be if PACA, or a similar organization, would be interested in coming to look at the various features of the building, such as doors, trim and windows. Helton said if they have a use for anything, the village would give them an opportunity to come in and take what is valuable to them.

"Then at some point we will just have to get a contractor in to tear it down and clean the site," Helton said.

Helton estimates the public works department will move to its new location in June. The village would likely be ready to demolish the building in the fall.

Plans for redevelopment of the area are still uncertain.

"There is an interest on the part of the village to redevelop that whole block, and to do that, someone is going to have to acquire the properties and remove the buildings," Helton said. "How much the village will be involved in that is yet to be determined."

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