Pioneer Day raises funds for historic Smartsville church | TheUnion.com

Pioneer Day raises funds for historic Smartsville church

In 1871, the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Smartsville was the hub of the mining community with more than 800 parishioners.

Almost 150 years later, members of the Smartsville community are working to preserve the historic church and bring it back as the hub of the community once again for use as a community center.

Enter the Smartsville Church Restoration Fund Inc. (SCRFI), a nonprofit group formed in 1998 to raise money for the restoration.

"Before we had Pioneer Day, we had little festivals, an open house for the church, nothing in the scale of the actual Pioneer Day," event organizer Kit Burton said.

So in 2007, the group decided to host a one day fundraising festival with mine tours, music, food, arts and crafts, and of course access to the interior of the Immaculate Conception church.

Character actors from the Old West Legends bring a sense of the wild west to the streets of Smartsville with their authentic attire, and performances in the Timbuctoo Theater.

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This year, after a $5,000 donation from Daniel Jacuzzi of Yuba City, the SCRFI raised just over $8,000. That money has been earmarked for restoration of the church's bell tower, a cost that could range between $100,000 and $200,000.

"The big expensive part is the cupola that encloses the bell and a new spire on top of that," Burton said. "That will make the church look like it did in it's finest point in history."

While the base of the bell tower is square, the cupola of the bell tower is octagon in shape, creating more challenges.

"We have two options for the cupola," Burton said. "One is to repair what's there, the other alternative is to purchase a prefabricated cupola made from aluminum or other material. There's a place in Kentucky that makes these things out of aluminum as well as a spire that goes up into the air, like our church used to have."

Estimates to rebuild the tower sit at around $100,000 while purchasing a prefabricated cupola could cost $200,000.

Though restoration costs remain lofty, the group has already completed much needed work to the foundation of the building as well as replacing the roof.

"Now we're in the position that we have approved construction plans," Burton said. "As soon as we make enough, we can approve that to a contractor."

To get in contact with Kit Burton about restoration work or how to donate to SCRFI, call 530-701-2639.

To contact Multimedia Reporter Elias Funez, email efunez@theunion.com, or call 530-477-4230.

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