Historic Crete Building Changes Hands
Crete Area Historical Society
The Crete Area Historical Society announced it has recently purchased the historic Crete Congregational Church. The building is located at 550 W. Exchange St. on the west side of the railroad tracks in Crete.
The structure was most recently used as retail space by antique dealers known as The Market Place Antiques and will now become the first home to the Crete Area Historical Society.
The building was constructed in 1853 by the Crete Congregational Church. The church and its members were committed to the abolition of slavery and helping those who escaped slavery reach freedom. Several prominent families as members of the Crete Congregational Church served a conductors on the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was a network of people and places that helped protect, move, feed and shelter freedom seekers. The structure served as house of worship until 1963 when it became an antique store.
Society President Ryan Martin shares the organization’s excitement about acquiring the old church. “It’s great to be able to save this historic building and our group is really looking forward to exploring every inch of it, but it needs a lot of work.” Martin said. A recent inspection of the 169-year-old structure revealed a long list of issues that will need to be addressed. “Our group is up to the challenge.” Martin stated.
Longtime member and current Vice President Tim Piepenbrink said, “We plan to use the church as a museum to display the many interesting historical artifacts the group has gathered through the years.” He and his wife are currently storing a large part of the collection themselves.
Past Society President Phyllis Monks was instrumental in initiating discussions with the previous owners about acquiring the church and helped negotiate the purchase. “This is the perfect place for our home and I’m thrilled to be able to help save this important piece of history.” she said.
Monks was one of several members who researched the history of the church and its early members, which resulted in the National Park Service designating the Crete Congregational Church as an historic site on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Trail in 2018.
The organization is realistic in its plans to move ahead. President Martin stated, “This is a big endeavor and we’ll take it one step at a time but we need all the help we can get.” The Crete Area Historical Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. The Crete Area Historical Society will accept donations of historical artifacts, labor services, and monetary means to support the restoration of the facility. Information on joining the organization and making donations to help repair and restore the church can be found at www.CreteHistorical.org.