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In 1908, the cornerstone of the Presbyterian Church in Ridge Farm was laid. The church opened in the spring of 1909 and has been abandoned for many years, that is until now.
Young Hines and his longtime partner, Enisa, whom he met in 2008 through a mutual friend, recently purchased the abandoned church with plans to restore the building.
The way the purchase of the church came about seemed like one of those ‘meant to be moments’. Hines was in the Ukraine when the pandemic broke out. When he got back to America on the last flight available, Enisa met him at the airport and they began to drive west, away from civilization.
“We drove all the way to Missoula, Montana and found ourselves parked in an RV in front of the church of Reverend John MacLean, a Presbyterian Minister,” Hines told us. “While we were there, we decided to make a video on his family and his church. One month later on our way back, we saw an ad for a small church for sale in Ridge Farm. There was something about the picture and something about the simplicity of the ad. We drove straight there and met the owner and made a deal that day.”
Hines is originally from Georgia and Enisa is from Chicago which made Ridge Farm the perfect half way point for the couple to be able to visit family at a not so time consuming distance. In addition to purchasing the church, they also bought the house next door that was once a parsonage.
“It was built in 1901 and once we complete the restoration of the church, we may take on the house as well,” Hines said.
After they purchased the church, the duo started the ‘American Gothic Restoration’ Youtube channel to show their progress. The name American Gothic stems from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s – an American use of medieval building techniques as a fashion statement rather than support. The church also happens to be a Neo Gothic Revival structure.
“It was born out of wanting to know more about the church and the town,” Hines said. “The idea is to use technology and storytelling to make history fun and relevant to the people living here now.”
The plans for the church is with each episode, to restore the building and the history that surrounds it. Once both of those come into focus, the purpose of the building will be a live streaming event center. Being that Hines worked in the entertainment industry for some time, he knows that publicists often need stops for musicians, artists, orators on route between Memphis or Nashville and Chicago.
Hines, the youngest of seven children, got involved in music at a young age.
“My first memory is crawling down the hall before the age of one and seeing my older brother playing a guitar on his bed.
At age twelve, I would pick up a guitar for the first time and not that long after, he and I began playing together.”
When Hines was still in high school, some of his friends thought it would be fun to play some Beatles songs together when they opened for a rock band that had a tape release party in Griffin, Georgia in 1985. The friends went to a local Salvation Army and got four black suits and did the first show and it went great. Twenty five years later, playing over one hundred shows a year, and Hines still enjoys it.
“Our plan is to become one of those stops where publicists send artists. Outside of the entertainment in the vein of bluegrass, gospel, painting and speaking engagements. We also would like to make a building available for community needs, weddings, meetings etc.,” Hines said. “Through our research, we have acquired a lot of historical ephemera and continue to do so, which we would like to display at the church. Not in competition with Ridge Farm’s Historical Museum, but in harmony.”
With restoring such an old structure, the common problem that arises is preservation. “Usually we are a year too late, ten years too late or one hundred years too late. Preserve, Preserve, Preserve,” Hines said. “Take photos, save them, take great care of your family photos, it only takes one second for them to drop out of a labeled envelope and then they are lost forever and become a nameless face. Those are the problems, preservation.”
As his time as a traveling musician, Hines has gone to all fifty states and traveled to many foreign countries. He’s also seen many majestic places.
“When I stand two hundred feet west of the Georgetown Bridge, over the Little Vermilion River in the creek and when no cars are passing at the moment, it feels like time traveling. It’s a magic spot,” Hines said. “Also Yankee Point is a beautiful place. I would remiss to not mention the majesty of standing on top of the hill at Mount Pisgah.”
One place that they have yet to explore is White’s Mill, which was a popular hangout back in the day. “We’ve only recently located the area where it perhaps was. Getting access to private property is always a challenge. Often we don’t know the owner and these days people are suspicious of people with cameras,” Hines said. “We aim to provide a family oriented viewing experience for the sake of the history of the area, so we of course hope with each new video someone in the area who owns a historic property might invite us to share their story.”
“We have enjoyed searching through the history of the tall grass prairie on the glacial ridge, as it is as rich as the black loam soil that surrounds us,” Hines said. “Check out American Gothic Restoration on Youtube to see the latest restorations on the church, and maybe even learn something new about the town you’re in or the ones around you.”