Pomona company to restore Harriet Tubman’s church in Canada – San Bernardino Sun

In a career spanning over 30 years, Ray Adamyk has taken on a number of high-profile restoration projects.

The latest endeavor for his Pomona-based company might be his most ambitious — revitalizing the church where Harriet Tubman worshipped near the last stop of the Underground Railroad.

To aid those efforts, a fundraising walk will take place July 4 in Pomona, headed by the Claremont resident and president of Spectra Company, which specializes in restoring and preserving historic buildings.

Located in Adamyk’s hometown of St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, the Salem Chapel played an integral part in abolitionist and civil rights history in Canada. The church, about 15 miles northwest of the U.S.-Canada border, became a prominent community space for Black Canadians and those fleeing slavery.

But in recent years, the 165-year-old building has fallen into disrepair and needs help to fully restore it to its historical landmark status. Despite being listed as a historic site in 1999, the Salem Chapel needs new windows, plumbing and roofing work and lots of touch-ups, totaling $3 million.

That’s where Adamyk comes into the picture. He is contributing $200,000 in services for the work, which is expected to begin in 2023.

Spectra Company President Ray Adamyk, who lives in Claremont, is seen inside the Salem Chapel in Canada speaking to historian Rochelle Bush. The Pomona-based company will be working to restore the historic church. (Courtesy of Spectra Company)

After a discussion about helping with racial reconciliation in 2020, Adamyk began to research Tubman’s life. Adamyk, who grew up a stone’s throw from Salem Chapel, didn’t know its history and connection to the famous abolitionist for most of his life.

“Most people don’t know where the last stop on the Underground Railroad is located in a small town called St. Catharines in Canada,” Adamyk said by phone this month. “I quickly learned how special this place is.

“People come from all over the world because they want to be in that chapel where Harriet Tubman sat and worshipped at,” he said. “I mean, I didn’t even know and it just so happens that I grew up down the street.”

After contacting the chapel in 2021, he touched base with Rochelle Bush, the church’s trustee and resident historian, who told him about the building’s battered state. When Bush said the church needed a restoration, everything began to click for Adamyk.

Having previously restored historic buildings, including the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, the Catalina Casino in Avalon and the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, Adamyk said “this was all part of my calling.”

“I told her (Bush), ‘You know what, we’re going to come to the church and we’re going to restore that to the legacy of Harriet Tubman,’” Adamyk said. “This was something she couldn’t believe at first and she began to cry because, after all these years, the church would be getting much-needed help.”

Spectra Company President Ray Adamyk is seen inside the Salem Chapel, the church where Harriet Tubman in the 1850s worshipped in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. (Courtesy of Spectra Company)

Born and raised in St. Catharines, Bush has deep roots in the church’s history. Her maternal great-great-grandfather was the minister-in-charge of the Salem Chapel during the time when Tubman lived in the town from late 1851 to early 1862, according to the church’s website.

In 1853, freedom seekers and freed slaves who arrived at St. Catharines via the Underground Railroad built the church, then known as Bethel Chapel AME Church. The building held about 200 people, and some of their descendants still attend today, Adamyk said.

In recent years, the number of church members has dwindled to seven, Bush told Adamyk. But with plans to restore the church to its former glory, there is optimism, Bush said.

“I truly hope Ray is the answer to our prayers and succeeds at restoring the much-deserved Salem Chapel,” Bush said in a statement.

With $100,000 previously raised for renovations through crowdsourcing and another $100,000 received last year through the federal Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative, the project is on track.

Adamyk is partnering with the city of Pomona to raise money for the church as part of Unity Day LA on July 4. The 1.5-mile walk will start at Lincoln Park, where a Tubman statue is expected to be unveiled, before ending at the Fairplex.

Mayor Tim Sandoval called Adamyk’s efforts and the new statue an opportunity for youths to learn about Tubman’s impact.

“Its important at a park named after Lincoln that we have a statue of a person that represents what it was like to go through and endure slavery and not just endure but to fight back,” Sandoval said by phone last week.

The event will feature celebrity boxing, family activities, musical guests and a fireworks show, Adamyk said. Proceeds will go toward restoring the chapel, but Adamyk also started a GoFundMe campaign.

For Adamyk, who visited the church last year, Tubman’s story needs to be told and get the respect it deserves.

“Can you imagine the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial not being taken care of?” Adamyk asked. “But this is an African American place and some think it’s not as important, well it’s extremely important and needs to be treated as.”

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