QUESTION: Has the First United Christian Church of Christ in downtown Burlington started selling off stained glass windows in advance of a sale of the church property? Who bought them, how much did they sell for, and what is the church planning to do with the proceeds?
ANSWER: No. Not only has First United Christian Church of Christ along South Church Street in Burlington not sold the stained-glass windows, the property has been taken off the market for now, longtime member and church treasurer Ken Little confirmed this week for The Alamance News.
The north and south-facing sides of the church sanctuary are lined with six Italian stained glass windows that bear the names of several prominent (now deceased) church members, including George Holt and Benjamin Sellars, who were heads of the textile industry during its heyday in Burlington. Each of the Italian stained-glass windows is valued at around $40,000, Little told the newspaper in an earlier interview.
The intent was, if the property was sold, to remove the stained glass windows, put them in storage, and install plain glass windows, Little recalled in a subsequent interview Wednesday morning.
The church received two offers to purchase the property in 2022, but both offers fell through, Little said this week. “We had a contingent contract with a group wanting to start a charter school, contingent upon them getting approval [to open a new charter school in the county],” said Little, a church member since the 1970s who has served as its treasurer for the past decade.
[Story continues below photos of some of the church’s stained glass windows.]
The state Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB), a division within North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction, rejected the application in September.
Graham resident Peter Morcombe – who has previously launched six charter schools in the area and has served since 2021 as the front man for a nonprofit hoping to open the county’s fifth charter school – later confirmed for The Alamance News that the 12-member CSAB had rejected his charter school application following a brief interview with the board on September 12, 2022.
Little said Wednesday that, after the contingent offer to purchase and an earlier offer fell through, “Everybody was so deflated, we decided to take [the property] off the market. With two failed attempts, it kind of wore everybody out.”
An earlier offer to purchase the church property fell through last summer, as well. The intended buyer, whom Little had previously identified as Sona Oliver of Charlotte, had offered $2,050,000, which he said was $50,000 more than the asking price of $2 million.
The first prospective buyer, Oliver, wrote a check for $20,000, as a “due diligence” payment, similar to earnest money for a residential property sale.
“The due diligence amount was refused for insufficient funds,” Little told The Alamance News at the time. “We had an offer to purchase, but the contract was never completed. When the due diligence money failed to materialize, we canceled the contract.”
First Christian UCC claims to be the oldest Christian congregation in Burlington, dating back to 1884, according to the church. Construction of the original church, at the southeast corner of Church and Davis streets, was completed in 1893. That building burned, and its former site – across the street from the existing church at 415 South Church Street – is the current home of Davis Street Plaza.
The current church property at 415 South Church Street in Burlington includes the sanctuary, a three-story education building, and an office building. First Christian UCC in Burlington was added to the National Register of Historic Places and the state Register of Historic Places in the mid-1980s, according to North Carolina Division of Archives and History.
Meanwhile, Morcombe said in a separate interview Wednesday that he’s continuing his efforts to open another charter school in the county and intends to provide more details at a later date.
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