One Brick at a Time
With help from hundreds of people, on a day many will never forget, Drury began relocating the historic Washington Avenue Baptist Church. An estimated 500 people gathered at the corner of Washington Ave. and Brower St. on Oct. 10. The crowd included scores of Drury faculty, staff and students, members of the Washington Avenue congregation and several dozen children from Boyd-Berry Elementary School. Together they formed a human chain from the church's cornerstone to a parking lot some 200 feet north where the church will be rebuilt.
At the beginning of the line, church elder William Delbert Herndon removed a single brick from the church wall and started it on a 10-minute journey down the human chain. From one pair of hands to another along the crowded line, the brick traveled from its old home to its new one. Along the way, many of those who touched the brick smiled, perhaps marveling at the unique chance to touch this bit of history. Others, after they let the brick go, looked down at their palms, reluctant to brush away the old brick's dust.
At the end of the line the brick reached the hands of Dr. Maurice Tate, pastor of the Washington Avenue Baptist Church. He held the brick over his head for all to see, then extended it to President John Moore, who grabbed the other end. Grinning broadly, Tate held on to the brick a few extra moments before letting it go. Moore walked a few steps to where the outline of the relocated church was spray-painted on the asphalt, and set the brick in a "corner."
In early December, the deconstruction began in earnest. Scaffolding in the sanctuary helped support the sagging roof as crews removed shingles. Windows, pews, trim, and doors were all removed for storage. The next major phase includes numbering each brick as it is removed. When the church is rebuilt, each brick will be returned to its place. The church will then begin its second life as a community diversity center, a functioning sign of Springfield's African-American heritage.
A pair of video cameras connected to the Internet allows anyone to watch how the project is proceeding. To reach them, visit Drury's home page (www.drury.edu) and follow the link marked "live video."
Even as the community helped launch the church's move, fund-raising continued for the new science center that will be built where the church stood. The building's design reflects Drury's modern approach to science education, with ample laboratory space for faculty-sponsored student research. The classrooms offer a flexible combination of experimental areas and desk space so professors can immediately help students understand theories with hands-on projects. Constructing and outfitting the two-story building is a $20 million project, Drury's largest capital campaign ever.
As Drury plans for a groundbreaking this spring, making sure the fund-raising reaches its goal is a high priority. Vice President for Development Judy Martin and Director of Corporation and Foundation Support Shae Ruark have worked on finding innovative ways to make sure future Drury students have the best science facility in Springfield.
At a time when science education is a growing national priority, Drury has already spent several years developing a nationally-known science curriculum, focused on helping students understand the scientific process. The new building is designed to provide an environment that complements this interactive, individualized approach to science education. Drury is poised to take a quantum leap forward in the quality of its science graduates.