Leonard Cummings (right), who has lead the effort to restore the Abyssinian Meeting House for decades, is pictured with Brent Leggs of the National Trust for Historic Preservation after the meeting house was inducted onto Maine's list of "Most Endangered Historic Places" in 2013. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

PORTLAND, Maine –– The Abyssinian Meeting House in Portland, one of the country’s oldest Black churches, just received $1.7 million in funds.

That money will allow the church to be restored.

The people behind preserving such an important part of Maine history are thrilled they’ll finally be able to finish restoring the building.

Kate Knox is one of the board members working to restore the Abyssinian Meeting House in the Munjoy Hill area of Portland.

“The Abyssinian Meeting House became a real center for the community,” Knox said. “It was a stalwart part of the Underground Railroad here in Portland.”

The building was built in 1828, and in 2013 was recognized as one of Maine’s Most Endangered Historic Places.

It was founded by four free Black men who were tired of sitting at the back of pews at church and wanted to start their own church.

Twenty-five years ago, the Cummings family bought the building from the city of Portland and has been working hard to restore it.

“The building was used in many different ways, tenement apartments, it was cut up, it’s been well used over the years,” Knox said.

This funding is huge, and Maine’s delegation was part of the process.

“This is the first year we’ve had this opportunity to request special community project funding in the appropriations bill,” Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat representing Maine’s 1st District, said.

While the outside was just restored, the inside is the next big project, and that $1.7 million will get the volunteers working on it to the finish line.

“To have this kind of investment will allow us to really finish the building the way we want to have it finished, make it accessible to everybody, make it really a useable space for the community,” Knox said. “It’s really going to be transformative.”

This isn’t the only project getting much-needed funding.

More than 100 other Maine projects will receive money as well.