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OLD CHURCH ON ISLAND TO BE RAZED STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS, ORIGINAL BELL TO BE PRESERVED

This spring, the former home of Trinity United Methodist Church of Grand Island will be torn down.

The chapel at 2100 Whitehaven Road was built in 1908, and the office wing was built in the late 1940s. The chapel was replaced in 1960 by a new church that soars 80 feet high on the lot next door.

"We have not used the chapel for services since our new church was built in 1960," said John Harbison, the church's administrative board chairman. "And when we completed our new wing in 1985, we ceased to use the former building at all."

The decision to demolish the familiar landmark did not come quickly -- or easily.

"We have a lot of older members who were married in that chapel, worshiped there for years," Harbison said. "There is a lot of sentiment attached to that building -- which actually is the second church on that site. I was personally interested in preserving it, if possible."

On Jan. 14, after months of study and discussion, the congregation voted, 86 to 57, to demolish the buildings -- with the proviso that the stained-glass windows and original bell be saved and stored so they might someday be incorporated in a memorial bell tower to link the congregation with its past.

"We've been worried about the deteriorating chapel for years," Harbison said. Last year, the church named a study committee to narrow the options to four, present them to the congregation and get cost estimates.

Demolishing the chapel and office wing and erecting a new bell tower was the most expensive plan, Harbison said.

The second-most-costly option was to restore both the old office wing and chapel.

Restoring just the chapel was the third-most-costly option, while demolishing both buildings was the cheapest option.

"However, one of our members, who is in construction, believes that he can demolish the old buildings for even less -- say 25 percent of our most-costly option," Harbison said. "Later, when we have the money, he can build a bell tower that would use the old chapel's stained-glass windows for far less than we thought."

So, the congregation voted to demolish the chapel and office wing, to store the stained-glass windows and bell, and, once the $450,000 bill for the new office and classroom wing is paid for, possibly erect that memorial tower.

"Our biggest concern was to come to this decision in the most democratic way possible and prevent tearing apart the congregation by giving our 1,000 members the most information possible," Harbison said.

"We held the vote right after Sunday services," he added. "It was a representative meeting.

"We're just like any congregation -- there's only so much money, and there is a desire to strengthen our staff and our programs and to finish paying off the $450,000 addition to our present church."

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