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By VINCE LUECKE
TELL CITY – An effort by the Tell City Historical Society to preserve a 139-year-old structure in Greenwood Cemetery has moved forward in recent weeks with the Tell City Board of Public Works offering to support repair and preservation efforts.
The cemetery’s advisory committee had discussed a recommendation to the works board to demolish what was originally a sexton’s vault due to it no longer being used and because of water damage that has damaged its brick walls.
The building was constructed in 1873, just 15 years after the city was founded. Tell City Historical Society President Chris Cail said Monday the building is the oldest public-works building in the city and played an important role in the early years of Tell City.
“If you read the history of Greenwood Cemetery, you get a sense of how important this building really was to the cemetery,” Cail wrote in an article in support of preserving it. He said a similar building in St. Mary’s Cemetery was razed because no one saw any value in it.
The Greenwood building was originally used to store bodies when workers were unable to dig graves because of weather.
Historical society member Mark Ress has attended the past two meetings of the works board and has said the group approached local contractors and others in hopes of getting work donated.
The society wants replace the roof and will reflash a chimney to stop water infiltration. It also wants to replace guttering, downspouts, and soffit and will cover existing doors with an aluminum skin.
The project would also remove loose paint, replace damaged brick and repaint interior walls.
Works board member Gerald Yackle, who voiced concerns about the safety of the building and the feasibility of repairing in a previous meeting, said Monday he would support efforts to save it, providing donations can be obtained by the historical society and the work is done at no cost to the city.
He also asked that the city not be liable for any injuries contractors or volunteers might suffer.
What the building would be used for once restored remains to be seen, though it would remain in the city’s ownership. Cail, however, said its preservation will add to the historical value of the cemetery.
A final decision on how to proceed will depend on results of tests that will show if paint now on the building contains lead. Mayor Barbara Ewing said that information is needed regardless of the building’s future.