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Rebuild of First Baptist Mt. Holly well under way

First Baptist Mt. Holly Rev. Kendell Cameron (left) and church reconstruction project chairman Reeves McGlohon standing under the steel beams that will support the new roof. Photo by Alan Hodge

By Alan Hodge

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Actual construction work to rebuild First Baptist in Mt. Holly has at long last started.

July 21, 2019  marked the third anniversary of a fire that destroyed the sanctuary of First Baptist Church of Mount Holly and damaged its Education Building. The fire was one of the biggest in Mt. Holly history and took 150 firefighters from 16 different departments several hours to control. The fire was eventually blamed on a propane torch used by a crew repairing the roof.

The sanctuary building was gutted but the exterior walls stood firm. Work took place last year to clear the twisted rubble from the sanctuary interior and allow structural engineers to assess the building’s integrity. The cleanup took six months.

The Fellowship Hall of the church was not damaged and now serves as the hub of activity for the First Baptist congregation. 

After the fire, the First Baptist congregation overwhelmingly voted to use, to the extent possible, the remaining walls of the structure in the rebuilding process.  The architect chosen by the church, WKWW Architects of Charlotte,  created a design that blended the old and the new. Beam Construction is doing the actual work.

“People had been asking when the construction would begin,” said Rev. Kendell Cameron. “Now, they are asking when it will be done.”

The rebuild has several important upgrades. One is the roof structure made of heavy duty steel beams. The other is a band of concrete around the uppermost rows of bricks. The concrete will tie the walls together for extra strength.

“The concrete will allow the building to meet NC seismic code,” Cameron said.

For many, many, months the sanctuary building was without a roof and open to the weather. Now, it has a temporary top so workers can begin the reconstruction.

“We hope to have it completely dried in by the end of September,” said Reeves McGlohon who is the First Baptist member overseeing the job.

The church organ was destroyed in the fire and  Schantz Organ Co. based in Orrville, Ohio has started creating a bigger and better one.

“The company will build the organ at their factory and we will go see it,” said Cameron.”When the time comes to install it in the church, they will take it apart and bring it here. They have been wonderful to work with.”

Overall, First Baptist is shooting for a project completion date  of June 2020.

To celebrate the rebuild, First Baptist is planning a special event on Sunday, Sept. 22nd. During the morning service, church members young and not quite so young will write Bible verses on the floors and walls throughout the church as a reminder that Scripture is the First Baptist foundation. After that, there will be a nice pot luck lunch.