Secure and weatherproof first steps to save John Wesley Church

DEAL ISLAND — Bids are due Jan. 14 from contractors willing to secure and weatherproof the former John Wesley Church — the first steps to turn the former sanctuary into a heritage-focused cultural and interpretive center.

Now owned by the John Wesley Community Association Inc., some of the work includes removing the bell and stabilizing the tower. Also requested is taking out and storing features to include the windows and relevant interior furnishings, and patching leaks to prevent further damage from rain.

Built in 1889 and rebuilt in 1914 it served Deal Island’s African-American Methodist Episcopal and later United Methodist congregants until the early 2000s. The last service was in 2001 but over the next couple of years it hosted homecoming until its condition prevented additional public use and it permanently closed.

The community association formally acquired it from the Trustees of the Deal Island-St. Charles Charge in 2015 but in 2011 put on a new roof. The following year in October superstorm Sandy blew out one of the tripartite windows — opening the building to weather.

Association leader Chanelle White said she watched it crumble away “but there was nothing we could do.” Fortunately, while the site floods, tide has not been a problem but rain and even vandals have taken their toll, she said.

The windows are valuable and were boarded up, but the material used doesn’t stand up well to the elements and will need replacing in addition to being certain doors and the tower are secure.

“We know that we’re going to have to put a new roof on eventually,” Ms. White said, but what’s there now is sufficient. The church hall on the other side of Deal Island Road needs attention for a hole around a chimney. It’s had graffiti spray painted on the walls, she said.

One contractor who attended the pre-bid meeting on Dec. 30 believes the fellowship hall can be secured and used for storage so the group can save on that expense.

The non-profit association was successful in receiving $100,000 from the 2017 African American Heritage Program managed by the Maryland Historical Trust, one of 12 grant award winners that year, and it continues to seek grant funding.

“Salvage, and shoring up to protect it from the elements,” Ms. White said. “We don’t want anymore water damage.” “It looks bad, but anything’s possible.”

For more on the project contact Ms. White at clwhite5@umes.edu or call 410-430-3201.