Renovations continue, new statue installed at church with ties to underground railroad

Renovations continue, new statue installed at church with ties to underground railroad
WAVE 3 News managers were on hand for the installation of the Winged Man statue at Second Baptist Church in New Albany. (Source: Rachael Krause)

NEW ALBANY, IN (WAVE) – Renovations and new additions continue at Town Clock Church, also known as Second Baptist Church, in New Albany as a Barney Bright Sculpture “Winged Man” was installed.

The church’s role in the underground railroad in the 1800s has made the church a destination for years. For the past five years, work has been done to renovate the building, restoring it to its former glory and create a new garden area with local art displayed.

Monday morning, many churchgoers and community members came out as the latest sculpture was installed, a piece of art many say is a fitting tribute to the historic spot.

A sign sits outside Town Clock Church in New Albany, letting passersby know about its role in the community for more than a century. The building is filled with history that people who spend time inside say can be hard to shake.

“Every time I put my key in the door, I’m reminded about the history of this whole community and really, this church,” said LeRoy Marshall, Senior Pastor at Second Baptist Church, also known as Town Clock Church in New Albany.

More than 150 years ago, slaves and free Americans filtered inside. Some came seeking freedom, others to help. “It’s a powerful feeling to me. I think the spirit or that energy of those people who said we’re going to do this no matter what is still present in this church,” said Jerry Finn, with Friends of the Town Clock Church.

Finn said anyone seeking freedom wouldn’t have come in through the backdoor into the church’s basement. The integrated church allowed people to walk in the front doors until they could escape farther north through a stagecoach or train where they might find safety.

“I don’t even know how to describe it, but the sense of what these people were willing to go through to stand up for what they really believed in,” Finn said.

Church leaders say over the last five years, this building here has transformed as they work to restore its place in both the underground railroad and the community’s history in New Albany. Monday morning, Albert Nelson with Nelstone puts the finishing touch on this pedestal. Underneath it sits three feet of concrete, ready for the weight of the new sculpture.

The Winged Man sculpture created by Barney Bright sat at WAVE 3′s park on Broadway for years. Now, it will fill the Town Clock Church’s gardens.

“Should be a good home for it, just looking right out here,” Nelson said.

“But it’s a perfect piece that symbolizes what went on in the hearts of those slaves that were longing for freedom, running for freedom,” Finn said.

For many watching here as crews carefully install the sculpture, this is more than a piece of art.

“To me, it just exemplifies the story we’re trying to tell,” said Alice Miles, Chairperson of Friends of the Town Clock Church. “The wings, the flight for freedom.”

Pastor LeRoy Marshall said he hopes to see this garden used for music, art and educating the community about the underground railroad as the message of equality for all lives on.

“We’ve got a lot plans for this space,” Marshall said. "We never dreamed this could happen.”

“The fight is not over," Miles said. “It is still an ongoing battle to make sure that human rights and dignity of everyone is respected.”

For more information about the Second Baptist Church services or to find out how you can get involved restoring Town Clock Church, visit the website here.

The Barney Bright sculpture, “Winged Man” was donated to the Town Clock Church by WAVE 3 news.

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