The dome-shaped structure that sits atop Horne Memorial United Methodist Church is visible from most places in downtown Clayton.
It’s called a cupola, and it’s getting a makeover.
Construction workers are hitching a ride on a lift to reach the nearly 100-year-old structure. Church leaders hope they can restore the cupola close to its original appearance, which included a copper dome.
The estimated month-long project is one of several improvements the church is making to its building, which dates to 1916.
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The church recently replaced the roof on the sanctuary and is saving up money to make interior repairs. A local company, meanwhile, is restoring the church’s stained-glass windows.
The Rev. Ross Carter, the lead pastor at Horne Memorial, said a church doesn’t come and go that often. It’s a frequented space not only during regular church services but also for weddings, funerals, baptisms and community meetings.
“It’s good to go back and make sure we are being good stewards of what God has given us,” Carter said.
The church formed in 1859 and originally met in a small square-framed building on a half-acre lot. As membership grew, church members decided the original building needed a facelift, and they added a steeple with a bell in the late 1880s, according to the church’s written history.
In 1911, the church formed a building committee with the goal of building a completely new structure. The first design did not include a cupola, but Ashley Horne, chairman of the building committee, said a church “did not look right without a cupola and a bell,” according to the written history.
The new church went up in 1916 at its current location at the corner of Church and Second streets in downtown Clayton. At the time, church members took the bell from the original church’s steeple and placed it in the cupola.
“We may get the bell refurbished at some point,” Carter said.
Horne Memorial trustee Bobby Parker said when the church’s population boomed in the 1990s, the congregation had to decide whether to improve the existing structure or build anew. Members voted to stay put, he said, and expand by building an education wing.
In 2013, the church purchased two properties to the south of the existing building to prepare for future growth.
Parker said the ongoing improvements are needed, as some of the century-old infrastructure is falling apart. For instance, the trim on the cupola was deteriorating. Instead of trying to patch up the problem, the church decided to restore the structure to its original state.
“The intent is for it to look as close as possible to as it did originally,” Parker said, but have more modern, efficient materials.