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Tear it Down or Fix it Up? Oldest African American church in Syracuse awaits funding

The church that sits at 711 E. Fayette St. was built in 1910 and used by AME Zion church until 1975. (CNYCentral Photo.)

The oldest standing African American church sits dormant with its doors and windows boarded up. However, the hope is that will all change soon.

The People's AME Zion Church, at 711 E. Fayette Street, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was home to the congregation from 1910 to 1975. While the church was rented out, following the congregations move to S. Salina Street, it has sent vacant for more than a decade.

"It definitely brings down the rest of the neighborhood," John Gleason said. He walks by the old church each day on his way to work. "It's a badly deteriorating building."

The church was sold to the People's Community Development Corporation in 2013 for $500.

"We don't like the way it looks either, and we want to do something about it," CEO of People's Community Development Corporation Daren Jamie said. "People have a great appreciation for it. It is one of the last remaining structures of the 15th ward. People were married there. Masonic services were going on there. It was the site of a lot of cultural activities."

Fundraising to fix up the sanctuary has occurred for years, and in 2013, New York state pledged $500,000 to the effort according to Jamie. The plan is for the church to be redeveloped into an Historic Interpretation Center (reflecting its history as a center of civil rights activism from abolition and the Underground Railroad on). The 1910 building will also house a Culinary Arts Training & Apprenticeship program for neighborhood youth and adults.

"Unfortunately through some red tape, and having to get through the red tape, it has been a longer process than we have expected," Jamie said. "We hope to start work before the end of the year. The mission right now to fix the improvement of the building for us and those who drive by."

CNYCentral.com reached out to New York state on why the grant process has taken so long, but recevied no response.

Previously, CBS5 asked the question of the Salina's Club 37, City of Oneida's Hotel Oneida, Van Buren's Quaker Steak & Lube, Oswego's 1850 House and Mattydale's Cinema North, and even saw action.

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