WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — The Thomas Memorial AME Zion Church in Watertown has been designated as one of New York’s “Seven to Save.’

The Seven to Save is a program offered through the Preservation League and highlights New York’s most endangered historic sites. The League works closely with local advocates over the course of the two-year listing and beyond to raise visibility, assist with advocacy, and provide technical services.

The church’s original congregation was formed in 1878 and consisted of railroad workers, some of whom were formerly enslaved and many who were active abolitionists. Under the leadership of Frank Thomas, the congregation built the church themselves in 1909.

The church had connections to the Underground Railroad and served as an anchor for the African American community of Jefferson County. The church continued to be known for its history and provided a place for worship until 2012.

According to the Preservation League, descendants of Frank Thomas continue to live in the community. Founder of Preservation in Color Shameika Ingram stressed the importance of the building and its historical significance.

“The Friends of Thomas Memorial Coalition is ecstatic about the Thomas Memorial AME Zion Church being selected as one of the historic sites for the Seven to Save program,” Ingram said. “We are looking forward to working with the Preservation League to continue efforts of engaging the community to work towards the preservation of the church. The church is an important attribute to the city of Watertown as well as to the entire North Country. It serves as a focal point for documenting the history of the local African American community.”

Unfortunately, the church has been without a caretaker since 2017. However, an active coalition was formed to save it from demolition. The Preservation League plans to find a use for the building that will best serve its community today and take advantage of its potential to educate and inspire the North Country and tourists.

Other historic sites that are on the list are written below.

  • Genesee Valley Park, Rochester, Monroe County
    • Threat: Demolition; Development Pressure; Lack of Public Awareness; Loss of Visual/Architectural Integrity
  • Proposed South of Union Square Historic District, Manhattan, New York County
    • Threat: Demolition; Development Pressure; Loss of Visual/Architectural Integrity
  • Penn Station Neighborhood, Manhattan, New York County
    • Threat: Development pressure; Demolition
  • Downtown Oneonta Historic District, Oneonta, Otsego County
    • Threat: Demolition; Deterioration; Lack of Public Awareness; Loss of Visual/Architectural Integrity; Vacancy
  • Willard State Hospital, Romulus, Seneca County
    • Threat: Demolition; Deterioration; Development Pressure; Lack of Public Awareness; Loss of Visual/Architectural Integrity; Vacancy
  • James Brooks / Charlotte Park Home & Studios, East Hampton, Suffolk County
    • Threat: Demolition; Deterioration; Lack of Public Awareness; Vacancy

More information about the Seven to Save program can be found on the Preservation League of New York State’s website.