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Presbyterian Church May Be Razed For Gas Station

U-Gas wants to build gas station on site of Rock Hill Presbyterian Church

Rock Hill Presbyterian Church is listed as one of Missouri's Most Endangered Historic Places. (click for larger version)
June 24, 2011
A gas station possibly replacing the historic Rock Hill Presbyterian Church is not sitting well with the Rock Hill Board of Aldermen.

Resident Al Hayden brought the matter to the board's attention at its meeting on Tuesday. He asked if what he had heard was true, that the Giddings Lovejoy Presbytery was in the process of selling the church property located at Manchester and McKnight roads to U-Gas Inc.

"Isn't there anything you can do?" Hayden asked. "Maybe start a fund drive?"

"From my prospective, it's not our problem," said City Administrator George Liyeos. "It's up to the Presbytery. That's a private transaction between the Presbytery and the filling station. We would be hard-pressed legally to hold that up based upon the church."

"If the deal fell through because of something the city did, we could be sued," said Mayor Daniel DiPlacido. He added that this was the first he had heard of the deal.

"It would be a significant loss to the community if this building was demolished," DiPlacido told the Times. "It's one of the few tangible pieces of our community's history remaining."

"The city does not own the church nor does it have the funds to move it. Perhaps a community-based fundraising effort could raise the money to move it," he said.

Board Member Chris Graber said that as one interested in archeology, she appreciated the historic nature of the church and would hate to see it destroyed.

"But the cost of taking it down stone by stone and rebuilding it could be in the vicinity of half a million dollars," Graber said.

Earlier in the meeting, the board held a first reading of a bill repealing a 1973 ordinance which limited the number of gas stations to two.

The bill was before the board because the city had received the site plan for the proposed gas station, according to Jennifer Yackley, director of planning and zoning.

According to the site plan, the Fairfax House, also located on the church property, would be moved to the northern end of the site.

"The site plan came in for the gas station and when we reviewed the code book, we discovered the ordinance restricting gas stations," she said.

When the board approved the ordinance in 1973, it gave no reason for limiting the number of gas stations.

According to a memo from Yackley, the city seems to have ignored the regulation in 1985 by allowing 7-Eleven to open a gas station at the corner of Berry and Manchester roads.

Church History

The church, built in 1847, was the oldest operating Presbyterian church west of the Mississippi River until fall of last year when the congregation left. It has been occupied for the last four years by a 100-member congregation, the United African Presbyterian Church.

In both 2010 and 2011 the church and Fairfax House have been listed among Missouri's Most Endangered Historic Places.

According to the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation which puts out the list, in February 2010, it was discovered that the Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery was seeking to sell the Rock Hill Presbyterian Church, presenting a threat to the historic church building and an additional threat to Fairfax House.

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