Austin, Nevada, church restored, open for tours

Jan Morrison sent a story from Preservation magazine about the church she and others in tiny Austin, Nevada, have been restoring. Work so far has taken four years and $353,000 in state grants. The town of 300 was once a booming mining town but is now one of the few outposts in the state along the Lincoln Highway (aka US 50 or “the loneliest road in America”). It increasingly looks to tourism for economic revival.

“The goal,” resident Jan Morrison says of restoring St. Augustine’s church, in Austin, Nev., “is not to make it look brand new, but to look like it’s 140 years old.” To be exact, the long-vacant church, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, turns 142 this year. It sports a new steel roof and granite support wall that fend off further decay without altering its original Gothic Revival and Italianate design.

But while form remains, function will change. When Morrison bought the building in 2004 from the Reno Diocese for $26,000, she formed the nonprofit St. Augustine’s Cultural Center, envisioning a venue for hosting conferences, art performances, weddings, family reunions and other events….

Morrison isn’t the town’s only active preservationist and booster. Restorations are also planned for the local Masonic Hall and an engine house that once served the Nevada Central Railroad. The Austin Historical Society recently opened a new museum, and local merchants received a state grant to spruce up some of the main street storefronts with a historic town square look

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