Restoration complete for an Austin fixture

Published 12:31 pm Saturday, September 27, 2008

The First United Methodist Church has been a fixture in Austin for 100 years.

Its First Avenue location is nestled downtown near a cluster of other churches and Austin High School.

Its sanctuary is surrounded by colorful stained-glass windows and a towering pipe organ, while the rest of the church is furnished in different ways, such as the elegant furniture and a banner that reads, “Spring Ahead with Jesus.”

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But it’s the outside that has Dewey Noel gleaming.

Noel has been a First United Methodist member for the past five decades and served as a trustee for the church’s extensive brick renovation that took place over seven weeks this summer.

The work was contracted through the Vernon Bascom Company, a masonry specialist out of Vinton, Iowa, and consisted of replacing 400 to 500 bricks, a complete power wash and weatherproofing.

In addition, the cement between some bricks was grinded out and refilled with new concrete.

“We’re very happy with it,” Noel said. “Those guys did a great job.”

Noel said the damage to some of the bricks was getting pretty obvious, a result from years of moisture and freezing and thawing.

With the weather proofing part of the renovation, Noel doesn’t expect to have the same problem anytime soon.

“I would say that if you spend that much money, you’d hope it would last for 50 years,” he said.

The project cost $213,000 and was paid for by a $125,000 five-year loan and pledges from the church’s 485 members.

It is one of several major renovations church officials have made since the structure was first built in 1908.

Noel said an additional wing and elevator was added in 1955, while in 1999, restoration of the interior was completed, including the refinishing of all church pews and a new ceiling for the sanctuary.

Lanny Krachmer, another First United Methodist trustee or person who is responsible for the physical well-being of the church, said the congregation has been pleased with the renovation.

“It’s gone over extremely well,” he said. “We received pledges from all members to do the project, and we didn’t receive any negative comments at all.”

The exterior work wasn’t limited to the bricks.

New flowers were also planted in the front of the front of the building, while shrubbery was replaced on the east and south sides.

“I think it’s great,” Krachmer said of the additions. “We figured as long as we’re doing the building, we might as well do everything.”