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Smartville church rebuilding progresses

The Church of the Immaculate Conception in Smartville as seen in 1939.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

The 132-year-old Smartville church still needs a roof, but engineers are finally working on a plan to straighten the foundation of the former Church of the Immaculate Conception.

Members of the Smartsville Church Restoration Fund, Inc., a nonprofit corporation dedicated to renovating the old church in the Yuba County hamlet, have more than $20,000 in the bank, Kit Burton, an officer of the corporation, said Monday.

“It’s a big jump from where we were a year and a half ago with $5,000, but we’re still scratching to come up with money,” Burton said.



The group hopes the foundation can be repaired and straightened so it can support a roof -then it hopes to raise enough money to pay for a new roof, Burton said.

The group raised $5,000 and received a grant from the Oakland-based Skaggs Foundation for another $5,000, which generated another $10,000 in matching funds from the Archdiocese of Sacramento. The group also raised over $2,000 at a June fund-raiser, Burton said.




The current structure was built in 1871 for $6,000 after the original church burned, Burton said. An entry hall and bell tower were added later. The original gable is visible on the second level just below the belfry.

The congregation once numbered 800, but dropped to just a few in the 1960s as families left and parishioners died. Priests from St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Grass Valley drove to Smartville to say Mass until there were too few parishioners.

The local Catholic diocese deeded the church to the restoration group two years ago.

Money donated years ago to fix the roof and the structure was used to set up the nonprofit corporation in 1998, deed the church to the group, and pay for liability insurance.

Catholic church representatives removed statues from the altar. Getting a roof is critical because the rain continues to degrade the wooden interior of the church, according to foundation officials.

The group hopes to convert the church into a community center for youth and art programs, and possibly theater productions. The cost for repairs from the foundation through the roof work is estimated at $500,000.

To raise funds, the nonprofit sold about a dozen pews from the church to descendants of original members of the church, whose names are in glass windows on the pews. One was auctioned off at the June 2 fund-raiser.

Donations to the Smartville Catholic Church restoration fund may be sent to SCRFI, P.O. Box 374, Smartville 95977.

For more information about the church and the nonprofit organization, or to determine if an ancestor was a member of the church, log onto its Web site at communities.msn.com/SmartsvilleChurchRestorationFund.


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