SAVANNAH, Ga (WSAV) – It’s been three months since a man broke into the oldest African American owned church in the country and vandalized it. Now organ experts are joining church members at First Bryan church to begin the campaign of repairing and restoring the historic pipe organ
“This is history, this is American history, not just local history,” says church historian Georgia Benton.
It’s history that is in major need of repair. The Knauff pipe organ at First Bryan Baptist church has called the church home since 1890.
“This is the largest pre-cival war tracker pipe organ of its size in the United States and it’s also one of the last remaining organs, of nine, of the Knauff organ company from Philadelphia,” says pipe organ builder Arthur Schlueter.
In August a man broke into the church under the influence of drugs according to police and trashed the sanctuary, one hundred and fifty year old organ included.
“I had personally had experience with the organ almost fifteen to twenty years prior to that it was quite heart wrenching to see what the vandal had done,” Schlueter adds.
Now it’s estimated to cost nearly one and a half million dollars to repair it. Insurance has done their part, but the cost of making the organ work again is up to the church.
“Wherever we can find funds to help assist we appreciate it from the community regardless of the denomination, regardless of what’s going on, we appreciate every dime we can get,” Benton adds.
Now church members are sending a thousands of letters. They’ll go to the white house and as far as Germany asking for aid in the organ’s restoration. The church has also set up several online accounts for fundraising such as a Gofundme.
“We are eagerly trying to do everything we can to bring the public awareness to the fact that there is this project, this organ still exists and it’s worthy of a restoration.”