AUGUSTA — Augusta College Echo Hall Association hosted an open house to showcase the current progress made on the Echo Hall Dormitory Thursday evening.
The community and general public were invited to see the interior of the near 200-year-old building.
According to members of the association, while plenty of work has been done to the building’s interior and much of the clutter removed, there is still plenty of work to be done.
“We just finished the gutting of the first floor, so we just wanted to show the community our progress,” said Tay Kelch, member of the association.
The building was purchased by the ACEHA in October 2017 in order to save it from demolition and re-purpose the building.
At the time, ACEHA President Caroline Miller said the building may be the oldest standing Methodist building in the state.
“There was a college called Cokesbury, but it burned three times, and after the third, it was closed,” she said. “My understanding is the college never awarded any degrees, but the Augusta College did, so for now, unless we can find further evidence, we’re calling the Augusta College the first sustaining Methodist College.”
Both boarding houses were built circa 1830 for male students attending Augusta College (1824-1849).
The building has fallen into disrepair since the 1997 Ohio River flood including the partial collapse of a back wall. It was slated for demolition until a group interested in saving the site stepped in, hoping to restore the structure.
“When I say it was on its last legs, there was equipment outside to tear it down,” said association member Mary Ann Kearns.
Working with the Kentucky Trust for Historic Preservation, the current owner agreed to sell the property to the group rather than demolish it.
ACEHA board member Dave Laskey toured visitors throughout the historical building, highlighting its unusual architectural quirks. According to other board members, Lasky has dedicated much of his time to bring the historical building into the shape it is currently in, which is evident by his enthusiasm shown during the tours.
Visitors were also amazed to see the aging historical site finally getting the care it deserved. Comments and suggestions as to the potential use of the building once fully restored were encouraged.
“We have this central historic district that has a lot of shops,” said Karen Erick. “This would be a great, one-stop place to have maybe some Kentucky artisan or craft options, some people actually honing their craft, so that you could watch and learn, there’s just a lot of opportunity.”
Several others also shared the belief that the historical building should be used as a museum that preserves the history of the community, a sentiment that is also held by Bracken County Judge-Executive Earl Bush.
“I can see maybe some rooms like almost a museum,” he said. “I think you’d have to talk to the city and see their vision. I think they envision it almost being where you can have meetings and events, and I can see that too.”
An auction fundraiser benefiting Echo Hall building will be held July 7.
The fundraiser will be from from 6-10 p.m. in the parking lot of The Augusta Irish Pub. There will be several items available for bid. The items have been donated from area people.
There is no entry fee to the auction and parking will be free. All proceeds will be used for the “Save Echo Hall” initiative.
According to ACEH Association board member Jackie McMurrin, donations for the fund-raiser will be accepted beginning June 1.
Anyone interested in donating items including antiques and collectibles, can drop them off at the Augusta Pub or contact McMurrin at 843-503-0439 in order to donate large items.
“They must be tagged with the donors name so we can recognize them,” McMurrin said. “We will have a non profit forms available. All donations are tax deductible.”
A GoFundMe page has also been set up to help raise money for the building. The page has a goal of $20,000. There is no deadline to donate on the page.
Money raised from fund-raisers and through capitol donations will be used for stabilization of the property. Board members have been busy clearing the lower floor of the historic Augusta College dormitory. Engineers have been consulted and works is expected to begin soon to replace the roof and damaged floor joists. Once that has been completed, the restoration can begin.
The GoFundMe page to donate to the restoration efforts can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/save-historic-echo-hall. Donations call also be sent to Augusta College Echo Hall Association, P.O. Box 3, Augusta, Ky. 41002. The group has 501c3 status from the IRS and all donations are tax deductible.