Facade of former church crumbles

PARKERSBURG – Stones from the facade of the former Calvary Baptist Church, at the corner of Avery and 13th streets in Parkersburg, were littered across one lane of Avery Street on Tuesday evening.

Officials said the remainder of the building at 1301 Avery St. is believed to be structurally sound and should pose no threat aside from the crumbling section along Avery Street, said Gary Moss, code enforcement director for the city of Parkersburg.

Avery Street has been partially cordoned off around the site, reducing the one-way road to a single lane for the length of the church, Moss said.

The source of the crumbling wall is believed to be a leaking roof or gutter on the vacant building, Moss said.

Water is believed to have gotten inside the Avery Street wall over the winter, which caused the bricks to loosen through repeated freezing and thawing, Moss said.

“What has been happening to our roads is the same thing that has happened to this historic church,” said Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell.

The exterior wall began bulging out of place more than a week ago, Newell said. This provided the city with ample warning that the building was experiencing structural problems in this section, he said.

Approximately 10 bricks have tumbled from the facade over the past week, Moss said. The occasional falling brick forecast what was coming when the first big thaw came, he said.

On Tuesday, those incidental tumbling bricks turned into chaos as sections of the exterior wall fell to the street below throughout the day, Moss said.

Rough gray keystones that once rested above window arches lay scattered about Avery Street on Tuesday afternoon, intermixed with the remains of century-old shattered red bricks.

Chunks of mortar and additional bricks fell throughout the day to add to the pile on the sidewalk and the road below. These mixed with the ever-present trickle of water from among the brickwork high on the building.

The church, built in 1906, will be 108 years old this year. Originally called the Calvary Baptist Church, photographs of the structure exist from 1907.

In recent years, the building has served as a framing studio and apartments, Moss said.

When the building owner passed away several years ago, the building became vacant, Moss said.

The current building owner, Tina West of Marion, Ohio, was notified of the structure’s condition earlier this week, Moss said.

West has reportedly arranged for repair crews to begin work on the building within the week, Moss said.

No estimates on repair time or cost were available on Tuesday evening.