First Christian Church of Columbus, Indiana has raised its second half-million-dollar grant over the last 10 months for the restoration of the iconic 166 feet tall Clock Tower. The church was designed in 1941, by Eliel Saarinen and is known as the first modern church in the U.S. and in 2001 became a National Historic Landmark.
In October 2018, inspectors discovered that the tower had severe cracking and the steel on the opening at the top of the tower was rusting. Organization leaders realized that it was important to repair the monumental tower because the community would experience a deep loss as the tower would disappear from the city skylines.
The overall effort to repair numerous cracks in the 79-year-old Eliel Saarinen-designed tower is expected to cost $2.4 million. A campaign was developed, and in August 2020, the National Park Service’s Save America’s Treasure Program donated $500,000 for the restoration project.
Now the Jeffries Family Foundation awarded a $500,000 Challenge Grant to the Friends of First Christian Church Architecture, a group administered by Heritage Fund to support the church’s tower. The Jeffris Family Foundation Challenge Grant provides a $1 match for every $2 that is pledged to the project. The grant is designed to spur an additional $1 million in private gifts and pledges toward the tower’s restoration.
Jeff Logston, chairman of the First Christian Capital Projects Fundraising Committee, said local fundraisers are “humbled and grateful for the acknowledgment and support. Their generosity is overwhelming.”
Tracy Souza, president of the Heritage Fund, appreciated the Jeffris Family Foundation for its support. “Having the support of a prestigious foundation that has done so much to preserve cultural heritage across the Midwest is quite an honor and reinforces the importance of saving community treasures like the First Christian Church tower,” she said.
Other community organizers like the Columbus Area Visitors Center, Landmark Columbus Foundation, Indiana Landmarks, and local architect Louis Joyner have partnered with First Christian Church as well to help the restoration of the wall.
Denotations are still needed to meet the $2.4 million goal. A Save Our Tower campaign launch event was planned for 4 pm on Wednesday at First Christian Church, 531 5th St in downtown Columbus. Organizers hope to have all the funds needed to begin the repairs by early 2022.