PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD)– A local group is salvaging parts of a church eyed by the city of Peoria for demolition.

The 1925 building has been vacant for at least a decade.

Jeanine Wester, co-owner of Peoria Architectural Salvage says the building is structurally unsound… but there are historical materials inside to be preserved.

“We reached out to the owners (Judah Ministries) and organized a salvage bid through them for some of the stained glass windows,” Wester says. “We’ll be removing some of the decorative stonework,  lighting — all different doors inside the structure before demolition.”

The group pays for salvage rights, which helps offset the demolition cost, but they say their main focus is not having these irreplaceable historical materials  go to the landfills.

Wester says the windows and stonework can be used for restoration projects or decorations. But it definitely takes time and effort to pull this off — with hand tools, battery operated saws, and pry bars…

“A lot of heavy lifting and crawling around trying to get things out of the ceiling,” she says. “And just being super careful, going slow, make sure to not break the historical materials, some of them are sort of delicate.”

Peoria Architectural Salvage has to work around the extensive building damage starting with a serious roof collapse in the back right half of the building.

“The floor’s not safe, the ceiling’s starting to fall in more, there’s huge chunks of plaster that are falling off even as we’re moving things around,” says Wester.

After they get everything loaded up, items are categorized and photographed at their warehouse in downtown Peoria, then posted on their website and social media.

They even do live walk-throughs before salvage starts so people get a sense of what they are removing.

“With a local building like this, there’s going to be a lot of people from the area that have a connection to it that will want to purchase some items,” Wester says they appreciate the owners letting them in to do this. “It’s sad to see it happen, but this is the best solution in a demolition case.”

According to Wester, they also unearthed a surprise — she says of a nearly 100-year-old time capsule.

It took crowbars, power tools, and a little elbow grease to remove the copper sarcophagus from its resting place in the brick wall.

Inside they found a spread of newspapers and documentation from almost a century ago, including articles about prohibition and the construction of this very church (Grace United Methodist) that contained the capsule.

Judah Ministries has agreed to reclaim most of the contents to preserve and display them.

Peoria Architectural Salvage is holding onto a single newspaper and lone photo to display at their location, and the time capsule and cornerstone itself, of course.