The building was three times the size of their former location at 45 Lakeview Avenue. It could comfortably seat twice the amount people. The office space, children’s and fellowship areas accommodated every need with room for growth.
This amazing building is home to so much history – history that can be seen and felt as you walk through the 166-year-old structure.
Built in 1853, this monument to what people of faith can accomplish was funded through pew reservations and collections. The congregation – which had existed since 1808 and consisted of many of Fredonia’s founding families – grew quickly.
Many members of this progressive ministry were active leaders in the Underground Railroad, playing their part in guiding escaped slaves to freedom. In 1873, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union met for the first time in history in this very basement. In the early 1890s, a bell – which rang proudly until 2017 - and clocktower were installed in partnership with the village of Fredonia.
Renovations and revivals were a common occurrence in the early 20th century. In the 1960s, a new classroom and office addition was built. The church had seen hundreds of families, heard thousands of sermons, and we were honored to be handed the torch; carrying this building into the future.
For the next two years, we invested 1.3 million dollars on renovations at the church building. The goal: to preserve and restore every piece of history. The roof was reinforced. Electrical upgrades were completed throughout the building. A new state-of-the-art sound and IT system were installed. For two years, the entire focus was restoration with excellence.
In April of 2017, we moved into our new home. We learned how things fit for us. We looked at what things could be changed in the future to work better. But most of all, we were grateful to God for a new place to call home. Our former building – occupied by the church since the early 1980s, went up for sale, and we began to settle into our piece of history.
Then on May 4th, 2018, we got a call that the unexpected – and potentially devastating - had occurred. “There’s a fire in the steeple.”
Much of Fredonia filled the Barker Commons as we watched our beloved home roar in flames. But as the flames rose – we rejoiced. If God had brought us into this building, He could – and would – bring us through any trial or adversity we would face there.
The amazing first responders of Fredonia and the surrounding communities worked tirelessly into the night and the flames were extinguished. The next day, cleanup began early. One hundred and fifty thousand gallons of water had been pumped into the structure – blowing apart the ceiling, destroying the century-old pews, and filling every corner of the bottom two floors with soot, insulation and water.
A team of over fifty volunteers gathered chairs, cleaned and prepped our Lakeview Avenue building which, coincidentally, still hadn’t sold, for service the next day. No fire would deter our resolve – no disaster would destroy our faith. God would bring us through this.
The renovation process began quickly, as national cleanup crews and demolition teams cleared away the damage. Almost immediately, we started envisioning what things could be done with this building – now a blank slate.
How could we restore the building in a way that glorified God and was even more conducive to how we structure our services? Scripture tells us to call things the way we want to see them in faith, not how they appear to be. To that end, we named this building “Magnificent”, declaring that it would be a beautiful gem that glorifies God.
We maintain a great insurance policy – all the damage was covered and renovations could begin right away. But we believe God would have us do more than simply restore. The Bible tells us that we go from ‘glory to glory.’ That means what we ought to always seek to improve, make better, and grow. However, any changes made – which are most cost effective to do now – would have to be covered financially by the church.
So far, our upgrades have included a new steel roof instead of architectural shingles, a high-efficiency air conditioning system, heating system improvements, and a total redesign of the sanctuary layout; paying homage to the original two-door entry, and a ceiling that is both beautiful and acoustically beneficial. In addition, we are replacing the historic clock – formerly owned by the Village of Fredonia, with a new one that will now be owned by the church. Costs for these changes will exceed a quarter million dollars – a further investment we’re grateful God has equipped us to make.
Now, we’re reaching out to this community, and beyond, to help with Magnificent. There are additional funds required to accomplish the necessary upgrades; all of which will be most cost-effective to be done before the predicted mid-summer move-in. We’ve already begun plans for a grand reopening celebration – with tours, stories and more.
We believe that our building is more than just a home to our congregation. It’s a landmark in this community. Like many of the historic structures in northern Chautauqua County, it has been solidified in time as a foundation piece of the village. The steeple, clock and bell were a visual reminder of everything we are and can be.
If you’d like to get involved in this amazing restoration, we’ve set up a GoFundMe account just for that purpose. We have been honored and humbled by the outpouring of this tremendous community, and we know what we’ve seen is only the beginning. Your support can help us restore a beloved landmark, a piece of history, and secure its place in Fredonia’s future. Donations can also be sent to, ‘Family Church Restoration, PO Box 179, Fredonia, New York 14063.
Thank you for your care, your concern, your excitement, your thoughts, your prayers, and your help. Together, we can restore this building. Let’s join together to see God make it Magnificent.
Tax Deductible Giving
Donations recevied through GoFundMe are not tax deductible. However, Family Church Fredonia is a 501(c)3 charitable organization, and any donations received directly by the church are tax deductible.
Feel free to mail a donation to the church directly (PO Box 179, Fredonia, New York) or you can donate via PayPal at paypal.me/fcfredonia and indicate your donation for 'Clocktower Restoration' and you'll receive a receipt as well.
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