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Posted on: October 7, 2021

Agreement paves way for old church's restoration after fire

west mound church 2

The City of Taylor Tuesday night approved an agreement with Belfor USA Group Inc. to perform all needed restoration work at the West Mound Church in Heritage Park, which was gutted by a fire last fall. The agreement, funded through insurance claims, is for an amount of $500,597 plus a 10-percent contingency, not to exceed $550,657.

The agreement was approved unanimously by the City Council.

Parks & Recreation Director Guido Ulin said that the project aims to restore the church as close as possible to its original condition.

The fire took place in November, 2020, on a beautiful but windy day. While the church remained standing, the interior suffered extreme damage. The fire started in the front of the building where the porch was being renovated and due to high winds that day, swept quickly up the façade. Given that the church is over two centuries and its wood very dry, the blaze traveled fast and in little time ignited insolation in the roof line. The damage was endless.

All the stained glass windows, save one, were destroyed. A portion of the ceiling collapsed. By the time the firefighters were done, there was six inches of water in the church. The fire was likely accidental, a spark from the ongoing renovation work. Something like that spark cannot be replicated, so a definite cause will never be determined. 

Balfor crews worked throughout the winter, spring and summer in the basic remediation process, at a cost of over $70,000, stripping the old building down to its foundation. As crews did their remediation work, Mayor Rick Sollars vowed that the City would do everything in its power to restore the church back to its previous historic beauty.

West Mound Church is one of the cornerstones of the Coan Lake historical section of Heritage Park. One of Taylor’s oldest buildings, it was first erected on a hill along Eureka Road across from what is now Southland Center. 

German settlers built it in 1882. William Perry constructed the church with help of family and friends. He operated a lumber company in Wyandotte, and was married to Roxanna Coan. The Coans are believed to be Taylor’s first settlers, and donated the property for the church. It cost $1,310 to build in 1882.

The West Mound United Methodist Church continued in operation until 1962, when the congregation built a new church and the old building was converted to Sunday school and day care. It eventually became a youth coffee house. 

It was donated to the City and in 1994, moved to its current location in Heritage Park. The Taylor Historical Society raised funds to restore the facility over a 14-month span. The church measures 30 by 66 feet, and its floor is made of original 6-inch tongue and groove pine boards. The furniture was designed and made by the Little Upholstery Factory, and its large pipe organ was an 1845 Detroit Ferrand, donated by the United Methodist Church of Trenton. Right up until the time of the blaze, the church had hosted weddings.

Couples seeking a place to marry where history and tradition flourish are attracted to Heritage Park. Intimate, candlelight ceremonies are performed inside the church. The towering steeple can be seen as one approaches the park. The view overlooks Coan Lake, which is crossed by a covered bridge and surrounded by historic buildings and replicas.

Dave and Kathryn Jacek were the last couple married in the chapel before the fire. They decided to marry there for many of the same reasons others have fallen in love with the atmosphere.

“We chose that place for a couple reasons,” he said. “One is my wife loved the park and frequently walked there, so she knew about the small church. We both loved the history of the place and the scenery around it.”

Guests traditionally entered the church through double oak doors. Colorful lights danced and flickered on the walls and ceiling as rays of sunlight streak through Grisaille stained glass windows, most of which were destroyed during the fire. The natural pine wood work and floor of the church are original. The church was adorned with white antique pews trimmed in walnut and embellished with pew bows. Eleven of the pews were original. The alter wall and furniture were solid cherry wood and the black walnut lectern was accented with leaf-motif carvings. 

Scenic Heritage Park has been a favorite photography site for local brides and grooms. Preferred photographic sites include the covered bridge, park benches, the caboose and boxcar, little red schoolhouse, the Gristmill and other historic buildings in the park.