Demolition of Historic Gibson Chapel Brings Unexpected Surprise

The demolition of Gibson Chapel Presbyterian Church marked a very sad day not only for those who had called the church home, but also for many Springfieldians who honored the historical value of the church.

The Chapel at 536 East Tampa was built in 1891 for a congregation that came together in the final year of the American Civil War. The Chapel was a major factor in the African-American history of the region, and will be remembered on a marker along the Springfield-Greene County African-American Heritage Trail that passes the property.

The building, which was in desperate need of significant repairs, was torn down by new property owners SMC. (Note: SMC had agreed to not buy the property and tear down the building if someone was willing to buy and renovate the structure, but no buyer was found.)

The 24 members of the church voted to sell the church and property in 2019 after not being able to maintain upkeep of the structure.

The building had been declared a historic structure in 1977, and the Landmarks Board voted to deny the congregation a “certificate of appropriateness” to demolish the building. However, under the city’s charter, the denial by the Board can only bring a delay before demolition takes place in hopes the person or business who asked for the demolition would change their minds.

As the building was torn down, however, Gibson Chapel had one last blessing to bring to the community.

A time capsule was discovered by the demolition crew inside the basement wall. According to the Gibson Chapel Presbyterian Church facebook page, no one in the congregation knew the time capsule had been placed inside the building.

The capsule included a newspaper dated July 9, 1891, the year of the building’s initial construction. The demolition crew stopped their efforts to retrieve the capsule upon discovery, and new owners SMC delivered the items to the congregation.

Time capsule found inside the basement wall of the former Gibson Chapel (photo courtesy GCPC Facebook page)

(headline photo courtesy Kaitlyn McConnell, Ozarks Alive)

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