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Candidate Powell reveals her plans for Old First Church

The Old First Church recently closed due to a dwindling congregation. Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD City Council candidate Karen Powell released a statement last week concerning the future of Springfield's Old First Church.

"We cannot allow a significant historical building, such as Old First Church, to go by the wayside. A possible solution to this situation is to convert this building into a children's museum that would allow children to play and learn at the same time. This museum would showcase Springfield's place in history and in its future, while contributing to the revitalization of downtown Springfield," Powell said.

The site in the center of downtown has been the location of a church or meeting house since 1637. The current building was built in 1819 and was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

The church recently closed its doors due to a dwindling congregation which could not maintain the building. The church had not announced any future plans for the building by presstime.

Powell told Reminder Publications that her idea has been welcomed by a number of people who have contacted her.

"They [residents of Springfield] want to see something downtown that would bring back families," she said.

She has left phone messages for Joseph Carvahlo, president of the Springfield Museums, and has discussed the idea with area businesspeople. She has not had any discussions with the church members.

"A children's museum like this could be privately financed by inviting companies to sponsor a room or an exhibit. There could be educational games, interactive computers, nutritional exhibits, health displays, features on recycling, landfills and maintaining a green city. Each of these components could be collaboration with a large corporation with special emphasis being placed on some of the larger businesses in the greater Springfield area. In addition, we could highlight the history of Springfield, including the fact that Old First Church was one of the stops on the underground railroad," Powell said.