Even a 120-year old building needs a bit of sprucing up once in awhile.
Alaska’s Historical Commission has announced a $12,000 grant that will essentially put a new hat on an old church-going lady with the renovation of the bell tower at the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church in Kenai.
The blue paint is peeling, cracks in the floor of the tower sometimes cause leaks in the foyer of the church and the louvers, or wooden window slats, have got to go, said Father Thomas Andrew, rector of the church.
The building, registered as a National Historic Landmark, is one of the oldest Russian Orthodox Churches in Alaska.
It was one of 11 projects around the state chosen to receive nearly $100,000 in grant funding through the commission.
Other projects included Fort Seward barracks signs in Port Chilkoot, a Cold War oral history project at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a student film project on the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Kodiak.
Each project will have until September 2015 to spend the funds. The state’s grant will have to be matched by the recipient, said Joan Antonson, state historian.
This year marks the first year in nearly a decade that this type of grant has been available, Antonson said.
“We found that we had some state funds in our budget that we could put towards a grant program to get money to do history projects,” she said.
Typically, the History and Archaeology department administers federal grant money which can have more restrictions on what people can apply for, she said.
“This made it possible for church projects to get funding,” she said. “Under federal guidelines, churches can get money for planning but they can’t get it for actually doing the work that’s proposed on this bell tower.”
The Russian Orthodox churches in the state may not be as wealthy as other denominations, she said.
“But they have been determined to be so incredibly significant for their architecture and their ties to telling Alaska’s Russian heritage,” she said. “They perhaps got some special consideration because this is a way to get them some money for what we call ‘hammer and nail’ projects, because it’s state funds.”
Antonson said the commission and staff who would be administering the funds were “delighted” to be helping with the project in Kenai.
“Apparently there are three bells that date back to the Russian period and one that actually came from Russian,” she said. “The community of Kenai has a really important history in this state and we just want to sort of have a presence or help them make their history better known.”