A newly-completed garden at New Albany’s Second Baptist Church is dedicated in honor of the city’s role in the Underground Railroad. On Wednesday, the church’s pastor, the Rev. LeRoy Marshall, blessed the public space.
“It will help tell the story of the daring work that happened on this property of helping freedom seekers escape the horrors of slavery before, during and after the Civil War,” he said. “The Underground Railroad Gardens will provide an opportunity for us to learn more about the people who were willing to risk their own freedom and their livelihoods to help those enslaved and mistreated.”
The Underground Railroad Gardens are on the campus of Second Baptist Church at 300 E. Main St. The garden includes a gazebo and an amphitheater, along with a couple of art pieces. The space is the new home to Barney Bright’s “Winged Man” sculpture and a mosaic created by New Albany High School students.
The Second Baptist Church, also known as the Town Clock Church, was constructed in 1852. As a station on the Underground Railroad, it was used to protect runaway slaves who escaped across the Ohio River. The city was a connecting point between a slave state and a free state.
The historic church has seen many restoration efforts in recent years. Its steeple and doors have been replaced, and its windows and famous clock have been repaired. The church’s century-old cupola, previously in storage, was placed on top of the garden’s gazebo.
Every year, about 1,000 third-graders tour the church. Now, the garden will be a place where students can gather and eat lunch. It might also be used as a concert and lecture venue.
Alice Miles, chair of the Friends of the Town Clock Church, said she is happy to celebrate another milestone in its restoration.
“The community has come to recognize the Second Baptist Town Clock Church not only as a place of reverence and worship, but also the historical significance that it represents through the Underground Railroad,” she said. “It is our desire that the Underground Railroad Gardens will provide for those who visit a place for reflection, peace and hope.”
The “Winged Man” sculpture, which depicts a man with long, outstretched wings, was installed in the garden at the beginning of the month. Bright, a sculptor from Louisville, completed the piece in 1968, and it stood in the gardens at WAVE3 News until it was damaged a few years ago.
This year, WAVE3 donated the sculpture to the Friends of the Town Clock Church. A donation from Ohio Valley Home Health helped with the restoration of the piece. The organization has received several other donations from the community to support the garden.
Julie Schweitzer, owner of ArtSeed in New Albany, helped organize the installation of the sculpture. The image of the winged man reminded her of themes of flying away in African-American spirituals, and she wanted to give the piece a new home at the historic church.
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Source: News and Tribune