Historic bell returns to First African Baptist Church during renovation project

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The bell of North America’s oldest continuous black church has returned to its permanent home.

The First African Baptist Church, built in 1859, continued its renovation project Wednesday morning after workers placed its historic bell back in the church tower.

The thousand-pound bell had been housed within the tower since 1888. 

The project, which began Oct. 1 with the removal of the bell, is an effort to preserve the church for future generations.

“We have tourists that come from all over the world just to be able to view this church, and the restoration and renovation projects that we’re doing right now will take us even farther into the future,” said Derrek Curry, Associate Minister at First African Baptist Church.

The bell was removed after engineers assessed the building and found structural damage in the bell tower, which needed to be redone to improve its structural integrity.

“They had to put new steel beams in, pour a new concrete floor,” Rev. Marco George, the church’s executive office manager, told News 3.

Engineers had to wait at least 28 days for the concrete to dry and completely cure before replacing the heavy bell.

The church’s steeple was also replaced on Wednesday. It’s not the original steeple; that one was damaged after a series of hurricanes hit the Savannah area in 1893, Curry told News 3. 

(Image courtesy of Hayley Larson/Lesley Francis PR)

Church leaders say that the congregation will celebrate 242 years of history on Sunday.

“This building is 160 years old itself,” George said. “So, when you have that type of significance, this bell is part of that history.”

(Image courtesy of Hayley Larson/Lesley Francis PR)

The church has continued hosting tours in the church’s lower sanctuary during the renovation, George said.

On the third Sunday of December, the congregation plans to re-open the main sanctuary following the completion of the project. 

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