Iowa City historic church to undergo major renovations - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa City historic church to undergo major renovations

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) - One of Iowa City's oldest buildings is getting a $1.8 million makeover.

Trinity Episcopal Church will see renovations and a new foundation, replacing one that was set in the 1870's.

While this happens, a historic instrument that's filled the church halls with music for 26 years will be cleaned, repaired and put into storage.

"They were built to play and last for a long time, and this one has," said Fred Zander of Bedient Pipe Organ Company.

With excavation and renovation drawing near, Trinity Episcopal's nearly hundred-year old Pilcher pipe organ is going into hiding. It's something music director Andrew Hicks hopes will give the instrument a shot at living another century.

"Because we're taking it out, that provided an opportunity to clean it up nicely," Hicks said.

It took about 3 days for Zander and his crew from Lincoln, Nebraska to disassemble the antique, piece by piece.

"These instruments are really fairly simple," he told us, despite a myriad of tubes and parts lining the church pews. Some of their work will improve the sound of the organ, and cleaning its tin pipes is one of the first steps.

"Yeah, just like dishes," said Eric Smith, washing the pipes. Smith finds the work fascinating, and makes interesting discoveries along the way. "We find a lot of bat bones," he said. "We actually found a rice bag from a wedding one time."

But Zander says it's not often that organs like this need a tune-up. "When they were built, they weren't expected to have someone in town to take care of them every week."

Reverend Mel Schlachter looks forward to hearing its tones once again. "Music is a big part of our life." In the meantime, Schlachter says the church will be expanding downward. The sanctuary will be jacked up on steel beams for support, while a new foundation and basement are built.

"It's going to be important that we get every bit of space out of this small downtown lot that we can."

He says the project architect is making sure the church is updated enough for modern needs, while keeping enough of its original structure to maintain a spot in the National Historic Registry.

The congregation will be worshipping in the parish hall and chapel during construction, which is expected to wrap up in November.

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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