Springboro church gets historic preservation award for work on iconic bell tower

South Dayton Church of Christ trustee says after someone rang the bell as a gag, they saw the wood structure of the bell tower had shifted

A local church will be honored by the Springboro Architectural Review Board later this month with its annual award that recognizes those helping to preserve the city’s heritage.

South Dayton Church of Christ is being recognized with the 2024 Jonathan Wright Award for the preservation and restoration of the bell tower at 300 S. Main St. in the Historic District. Beginning in 2022, South Dayton Church of Christ began work to restore and preserve the bell tower of the church that dates to 1895.

The Architectural Review Board said that work included removing the bell and upper wooden bell tower, allowing for its preservation, as well as work on the lower stone bell tower. When the upper bell tower was prepared for preservation work, it was determined that historic elements were intact and in good condition, and the project shifted to restoration, including reuse of siding, painting the upper tower to its original color, and other details, while respecting the historic aspects of the property, according to the board.

City Planner Dan Boron said, “This is the most iconic structure in the Historic District and is used in promotional material about the city.”

Boron said the project started as a water damage repair project but became a restoration project after it was found the bell tower was unstable.

Ken Dietz, one of the church’s trustees, said they realized something was wrong up in the bell tower when somebody rang the bell as a gag and saw the wood structure of the bell tower had shifted after the ringing. Dietz said it was a two-year project for the small, older congregation of about 50 members to tackle. The cost of the project was $105,000 and some of the costs were defrayed by a city grant and other fundraising efforts by the congregation.

“We knew we had to conform to the Historic District rules and we needed to do more than a repair,” he said.

While the bell itself was in good shape, Dietz said the four beams needed to be replaced. The project also included taking off the vinyl siding and making other roof repairs.

“Just knowing what the structure means to the city and people there is why we went the extra mile,” Dietz said. “We’re looking at it as a rebirth of the church. Restoration is important to us. It goes with our principles.”

The Jonathan Wright Award for Historic Preservation honors those that have restored, rehabilitated, or preserved an important building, site, or artifact representing the area’s history, or provided long-term stewardship of such property.

The presentation will take place at the City Council meeting at 7 p.m. May 16 in the Council Chambers in the Springboro Municipal Building, 320 W. Central Ave.

The Architectural Review Board is appointed by Springboro City Council to protect Springboro’s historic landmarks and promote local history education. The program was initiated in 2000 and coincides with the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Preservation Month held annually in May.

Individuals, businesses, organizations, institutions and public agencies in Springboro are eligible for the awards. For more information regarding the preservation awards program, contact Dan Boron at (937) 748-6183 or by e-mail at danb@cityofspringboro.com.

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