The church you see above was originally in Leesburg. It was owned at one time by the Leesburg Presytery and was built in 1906, before being sold to the First Baptist Church of Leesburg located next door. Over time, the Baptist church had grown by leaps and bounds and the old Presbyterian church became abandoned and found itself on the edge of a parking lot. It had been well maintained by the Baptists but they could find no real use for it and were glad to sell it when a buyer emerged.
Sundown Plantation, owned by Ellen Alderman and located outside just outside Moultrie, is a very successful commercial quail plantation…..check it out here. Ellen has a thriving wedding business at the plantation but she wanted an authentic wedding chapel and she knew she had the ideal location for it. She got in touch with our photographer, Steve Robinson, who suggested she take a look at Leesburg Presbyterian in Leesburg. The Baptist church had purchased the church in 2009 and had reluctantly come to the conclusion that it was going to be too expensive to bring the building up to code to use it for anything concerning church functions, so it was used for storage. The only thing in it’s future was, eventually, demolition.
Ms. Alderman contacted the Baptist owners and describes the event thus…..”We are very proud of how the Leesburg Presbyterian Church has been given new life as The Chapel at Sundown. The move from Leesburg, GA, in July, 2016 to the first wedding in early March, 2017, took 8 months of hard work. The roof & bell tower had to be removed with us saving as much of it as we could. When we relocated it to Sundown Plantation in Moultrie, GA, we had a severe storm causing the dropped ceiling to collapse. Luckily, a beautiful wood ceiling was revealed & basically unharmed. We replaced the roof & bell tower to the exact original measurements, but everything under the roof is original from the ceiling, floors, stained glass windows, pews & plaster walls infused with horsehair as was the custom of the day. The original bell is back in the bell tower & has a beautiful sound.
When we first saw the church in Leesburg about four years ago, it had blue vinyl siding, but underneath we found grey paint & underneath the grey was white. We chose our colors to blend in with our plantation setting without being too bold. We matched the inside white which seemed to be original & we kept the dark wood below the chair rail as it matched the original ceiling. The pews which appear to be the originals were in great shape. We were able to move the church with the pews in it…… I am so appreciative to Steve Robinson for telling me about this gem that was about to be torn down and to Keith Anthony from the First Baptist Church of Leesburg who worked with me for the three years it took me to commit to this endeavor. The old Leesburg Presbyterian Church now has new life and will have lots of TLC for generations to come.”
The move from Leesburg to Sundown Plantation took four days to complete but what a storybook ending for a beautiful piece of Georgia history on the verge of demolition. Drop by and see the new home for Sundown Plantation Wedding Chapel if you are in the area, and say hello to Ellen Alderman. We are all indebted to her for this beautiful restoration job and saving this old treasure that can now be appreciated for generations to come. The following photos will document both the move and the restoration.
Getting ready for the journey. The roof and steeple have been removed and everything has been stabilized for the road trip. The pews are still inside.
You have to know what you are doing to be in this business. Power lines, traffic and trees are not your friends.
Almost home.......and what a setting! On the banks of a beautiful pond with cotton fields next door and towering trees.
It is getting close.......new roof, paint and landscaping that is beginning to complete the perfect new home. Just majestic.
Sometimes, seemingly destructive accidents can turn out to be positive. You read earlier that, during a storm just after moving to the new site, the old dropped ceiling had collapsed. By that chance event, the original high, sanctuary ceiling was revealed! It was made of lovely, small gauge heart pine boards that matched the already spectacular original floors, wainscot and original pews. The finished chapel, when restoration was completed, became an authentic recreation of the 19th century structure. What good luck for Ms. Alderman and Sundown Plantation who have saved a failing rural church and now have a true showplace to offer for weddings, other events and generations of visitors to come.
This view from the pulpit of the entry doors shows what a wonderful job was done to recreate the sanctuary as authentically as possible. The original church had a vestibule beneath the bell tower as you have seen earlier. The main outside doors are at the base of the bell tower. They lead into the small room created by the bay entrance into the interior of the sanctuary seen above. This attention to detail and authenticity is a tribute to those that saved and restored the structure.
A great story three years in the making. A wonderful piece of Georgia history, over 100 years old, has been saved and will be preserved for generations to come. Thank you Sundown Plantation and Ellen Alderman. Very well done.
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