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Old 07-20-2004, 11:20 PM   #1
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Anybody want a steeple?

I found this article in my local paper today. I hope they find someone who is serious about restoring it...

Owners hoping to find takers for R.E.M. artifact

By Allison Floyd

Free to a good home: One piece of rock music history. 135 years old. Restoration needed. Serious offers only.

The owners of Steeplechase condominiums can't afford to maintain the steeple of St. Mary's Episcopal Church, the historic house of worship where R.E.M. performed for the first time at a party on April 5, 1980.

But the 21 condo owners don't want to watch the historic structure meet the same fate as the main church, which was destroyed in 1990 to make way for their building at the corner of Oconee and Williams streets.

So, the condo owners are giving the steeple away.

''It's been the topic of conversation at numerous board meetings,'' said Kate Hinton, the manager of Steeplechase's condo association. Condo owners are concerned about the condition of the building, she said, but the small group just can't afford to restore the 1869 structure.

''The interior needs a lot of work,'' Hinton said. ''The foundation and the walls are solid, but there's no floor.''

Replacing the roof, the first work that needs to be done, would cost $8,200.

''The association can, in no way, collect that much money,'' Hinton said.

St. Mary's Episcopal was built in 1869 by millworkers at the Athens Manufacturing Co. It weathered 75 years of services before the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta turned the building over to the American Red Cross for its Athens headquarters.

The building gained new historical significance in 1980, when R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe and guitarist Peter Buck moved into converted apartments in the church and held the band's earliest practices there.

The main church was demolished in 1990, but the steeple was deeded to the individual condo owners as a legacy to the church's history.

Now, the owners don't know how to protect that history.

The condo owners contacted the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, whose precursor, the Society for the Preservation of Old Athens, helped save the church in the 1960s.

Leaders of the heritage foundation and Athens Welcome Center have visited the site but haven't reached an agreement with the condo association.

The steeple's interior is small and dark, and it doesn't have any parking. But the building might become a local museum or an office, Hinton said.

There's an important condition to the offer. Steeplechase isn't giving away the land, only the building.

Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Tuesday, July 20, 2004

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Old 07-21-2004, 12:05 AM   #2
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I used to walk by this on my way to school, as I lived right off of Oconee Street. It's a nice little piece of rock history--I hope they're able to save it.
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