Not even a pivotal place along the path to American Revolution is immune to a leaky roof.
Richmond’s St. John’s Church – where Patrick Henry gave his famed “Give me liberty or give me death,” speech in 1775 – is awaiting for capital campaign funding for some hefty repairs.
The 273-year-old church needs a new roof, fresh paint, shutter repair, sounding board conservation, and other mending, said Amy Swartz, programs and preservation director with St. John’s Church Foundation.
She said the projects will cost about $324,000, and the foundation could receive $100,000 of that total through a challenge grant if it can match the $100,000 itself.
St. John’s, located at 2401 E. Broad St., became the first church in Richmond when it was constructed in 1741, the foundation said.
In March of 1775, Patrick Henry, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and more than 100 other Virginia colonial leaders gathered at St. John’s for the Second Virginia Convention, Swartz said. As tensions between colonists and England peaked, Henry rallied the crowd with his famous speech.
“This is the birth of our nation,” Swartz said. “Patrick Henry made the fiery speech here and felt compelled to come to this spot in Richmond to convene with other delegates to fight for our existence.”
The planned repair work is the second phase of preservation the foundation has taken on in recent years. In the first phase from 2001 to 2012, the foundation raised more than $3 million to create a visitor center, make the property wheelchair accessible, improve brick pathways and install a modernized fire suppression system, among other projects.
The foundation is also working to restore damaged tombstones in the cemetery on the church’s grounds.
The oldest marked tombstone was planted in 1751 and is in the process of being repaired, thanks to a donation from a descendent of the deceased, Swartz said. Notable burials in the cemetery include Edgar Allan Poe’s mother, Elizabeth Arnold Poe, and Declaration of Independence signer George Wythe.
The foundation has raised $110,000 so far with grants from the William H., John G. and Emma Scott Foundation; the Windsor Foundation; the Beirne Carter Foundation; the Burcham Family Fund; and the Roller-Bottimore Foundation.
If the foundation can raise an additional $100,000, the Robert G. Cabell III and Maude Morgan Cabell Foundation will donate the matching $100,000 challenge grant.
The St. John’s Church Foundation was started in 1938 to promote and preserve the historic structure. The nonprofit reported total revenues of $362,569 and total expenses of $305,878 in 2012, according to Guidestar.org.
St. John’s Church also hosts an active Episcopal congregation for Sunday services.
The foundation, a separate entity from the church itself, generates some of its revenue from daily guided tours and its gift shop.