The Middleburg Town Council on Thursday ended its search for someone to restore the historic Asbury Church; the town is going to do the work itself.
The action follows the review of two unsolicited proposals to take ownership of the town-owned building and put it back in active use. One offered by the Loudoun Freedom Center envisioned using the North Jay Street building as an educational center telling stories of the town’s Black community and the Civil War. Another would use the building as a yoga studio and community center. Both pledged to preserve the historic integrity of the 193-year-old structure.
The 2,660-square-foot Asbury Church was established in 1829 and has been used as a Methodist Episcopal church, a storehouse, a Civil War government depot and hospital, and a Methodist Episcopal church for the town’s Black residents. The building has been vacant since 1994. It was donated to the town in 2014.
The town initially invested more than $174,000 to stabilize the building and had previously solicited bids from entities seeking to preserve, restore and reuse the church in 2018 and in 2020, but those efforts closed without a decision to transfer the property.
The council had been discussing the latest proposals in closed session over the summer.
Mayor Bridge Littleton said that once the books closed on Fiscal Year 2022 a new option emerged. The town ended the year with an unanticipated $1 million surplus, driven by strong meals and hotel tax revenues.
Under the plan approved unanimously on Sept. 8, the council voted to retain ownership of the church and committed to fully renovate and restore the building, starting immediately with work to continue to stabilize the structure.
The initial stabilization effort conducted five years ago included only a portion of the work identified at that time as needing to be done. This week, the council allocated $50,000 to update the stabilization plan and begin immediate repairs as needed. The town staff is expected to report back this fall with the estimated cost of completing the stabilization work, expected to be more than $200,000.
Early next year, after construction of the new Town Hall is complete, the Town Council plans turn its focus to the larger renovation of the church. After that is complete, it is anticipated that the town will seek a partner to develop programs at the church, including those highlighting its historical significance.
Council members said they appreciated the proposals that had been submitted and their commitment to preserve the church’s important heritage.
In the end, Council member Cindy C. Pearson said, it became evident that handing off the responsibility for the building perhaps would be an easy out for the town, but best course was for the town to take on that responsibility.
The town was supported in its decision by the leaders of the Willisville Preservation Foundation and the Friends of Ashbury Church, with both organizations pledging to support the town’s restoration efforts.