Archived Story

Historic landmark in danger

Published 2:54pm Friday, January 20, 2012

What comes to mind when you think of Chilton County? For residents, no doubt their homes are high on the list. Everyone knows about the peaches, and the county’s schools are centers of daily life for many people.

But what could people agree on as a landmark in the county? The peach tower is recognizable for people passing through Clanton on Interstate 65.

Perhaps as much as any other location, Helen Jenkins Chapel in Thorsby is synonymous with Chilton County. Not only is it in the heart of Peach Country, but the chapel features the Scandinavian architecture and history that make Thorsby unique.

At least this part of Chilton County’s history is in danger.

The century-old church, founded by Swedish immigrants, has been found to have extensive termite damage, casting doubt on the future of the building that has served at different times as a sanctuary, Masonic lodge, school band room and meeting place—but always as a center of the town.

An engineer discovered damage so serious that the chapel has been closed indefinitely, and work would be needed to try to at least temporarily save the steeple, which could collapse at any moment because of deterioration to a wood column supporting the structure.

Town leaders have said they will do what they can to save Helen Jenkins Chapel. “We are committed to raising the funds somewhere to get it done,” Tracia Bussey, chairwoman of the Thorsby Historical Preservation Committee, said about a project to repair the building. “It’s too big of a loss to settle for.”

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