CONTINUING COVERAGE: FLOODS OF 2016

Palmyra Township’s Oldest Structure Brought Back to Life

PALMYRA, Iowa - Jane Colacecchi was in the right place at the right time.

"My brother lives in Palmyra, and I would drive by often and see the holes in the roof and the building deteriorating, and I thought to myself, 'I'm a grant-writer, and that's what my company does, and so these people need somebody to write them a grant to the state,'" she said.

Colacecchi is referring to the Palmyra Church - built in 1870, it's one of the oldest religious structures in Warren County, and an important piece of history for the state of Iowa.

"I really thought that you just can't let something like this deteriorate, you can't let a church like this fall to the ground," she said.

So, Colacecchi didn't. Her efforts helped the Palmyra Township receive just over $45,000 from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs to restore the church to its former glory.

"This church is part of Iowa's history, and it's certainly a significant part of Palmyra's history," she said. "It's the last building left standing in what was once a very vibrant community."

A once-vibrant community is now more quiet than anything else; residents say all hope had been lost for Palmyra's last great remnant of its past.

"I think a lot of people were afraid that we wouldn't be able to obtain the funding, and the work that it takes," said Linda Guffey, a Palmyra resident of 15 years. "But we've had a lot of positive feedback when people have seen the roof going on, and the work that's taking place."

Even Iowans from down the road know about the Palmyra Church - they've come out to see with their own eyes proof that it's coming back to life.

"I have ancestors that lived here in Palmyra," said Margaret Cummings of Carlisle. "And as far as the church goes, Eli Myrick - built the church - he was an ancestor of mine."

It's no secret small towns like Palmyra seem to be getting smaller; with a development boom in the Greater Des Moines Metro, Colacecchi says it's important we remember where we came from.

"Things are plowed down in the name of progress, and you lose your identity," she said. "And who you are as a state when you let go of pieces of history."

The efforts to restore Palmyra Church are only halfway complete; this group of volunteers, along with the Palmyra Trustees, need to raise matching funds to complete the interior restoration of the church. In addition, any licensed contractors who are willing to donate their time and skills are needed. All donations can be made by visiting the project's official Facebook page, where more information is provided.