Iconic "Jesus Saves" sign removed from dilapidated church

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Crews spent several hours in the hot, blazing sun dismantling the iconic "Jesus Saves" sign atop a dilapidated church in west Charlotte on Monday.

The "Jesus Saves" sign has been perched high atop Cannon Cathedral for several decades.

In recent years, the old sanctuary had fallen into a state of disrepair and New Bethel Church is paying to have the building demolished.

Early Monday morning, a large crane rolled onto the work site, but it wasn't quite big enough to do the job.  So, a second crane had to be brought in to reach the sign on the roof.

"This sign means a lot," said church member Alan Thomas.  "This property means a lot.  It reminds us of our heritage and our legacy."

The congregation formed in east Charlotte 80 years ago before relocating to Garr Auditorium on the west side of town.

Named after its founding pastor, Alfred Garr and also supported by his wife, the sign atop the building became a Charlotte landmark both in its prime and during its years of decay.

"One of the things about these signs [is] that it makes Charlotte unique," said Diane Althouse who works with the Historic Charlotte Commission.  "You're not gonna find the 'Jesus Saves' sign any place else in the country."

In addition to the "Jesus Saves" sign, Althouse's organization has found other prominent Charlotte signs, like one for JFG coffee, in which her group plans to preserve.

"We have identified about 40 signs around the Mecklenburg region that are vintage, that are more than 25 years old," Althouse said.

Their goal is to save as many of these old signs as possible.

Developers say even in a challenged economy, the site where the old church is situated near uptown still has possibilities.

"I think it really opens the door for a project to happen here," said developer Bobby Drakeford.  "With this economy, it's not gonna happen today, but the site is ready now."

While no one is sure what will come to the site where the old church is located, the effort to save the sign clearly proves that some things in Charlotte still have life, long after the wrecking ball has disappeared.

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