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July 22, 2022

King Tours Abyssinian Meeting House for First-Hand Update of Restoration Project from Congressionally-Directed Spending

The Abyssinian Meeting House is receiving $1.7 million in federal budget allocations to complete the decades-long restoration project

PORTLAND, ME – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today visited the Abyssinian Meeting House — America’s third oldest meetinghouse constructed by a Black congregation — to see and hear how the organization will be using $1,700,000 in Congressionally-Directed Spending (CDS) to help restore the important historic building before its 200th anniversary in 2028. Senator King secured this federal investment for the Maine landmark in the recently-passed 2022 Omnibus Appropriations Package. During the visit, Senator King met with restoration leaders to discuss what this CDS investment will mean for their mission and toured the site to see how the new funds will help expand their efforts.

“The Abyssinian Meeting House is more than just a building — it is a cultural institution and physical reminder of the centuries of contributions Black Mainers have made to the state we all love,” said Senator Angus King. “The efforts to restore the Abyssinian Meeting House show how important this building is to Maine’s Black community and what it represents to American history. It was a real privilege to see these restoration efforts firsthand today and meet Restoration Committee Members who are working to put these funds to good use in the community. The visit was a powerful example of how Congressionally-Directed Spending is being used to support our state. I’m incredibly proud that my colleagues and I were able to secure this CDS funding, and look forward to seeing a fully revitalized Abyssinian ahead of its 200th anniversary.”

“We have known Senator King since his early days as Governor King. We are grateful for the support that he has given to the Abyssinian Meeting House over the years and culminating in the community funding grant from HUD. The federal funding that the Abyssinian Meeting House will receive to complete the historic preservation and  restoration of the building on Newbury Street in Portland is a blessing that the board of directors has struggled to bring to fruition for 25 years,” said Deborah Cummings Khadraoui, Chair of the Abyssinian Meeting House Development Committee. “We couldn’t have reached this milestone without so many people and the Maine Congressional delegation including Senators King and Collins and Congresswoman Pingree.”

In 1826, six free Black men – Reuben Ruby, Caleb Jonson, Clemant Tomson, Job Wentworth, Christopher Manuel and John Sigs announced their plan to build a church for the Portland Black community in response to the discrimination they had experienced in local white houses of worship. Now, nearly 200 years later, committee members describe the Abyssinian as “the city’s only historic building dedicated to the quest for personal freedom, civil rights and equal opportunity for all.” The Abyssinian Meeting House received $1.7 million dollars in Congressionally-Directed Spending to restore this landmark and preserve the important Black history it holds. The mission of the Committee to Restore the Abyssinian is not only to preserve the building, but to promote cultural heritage. Upon completion, the leaders of the restoration project envision the Meeting House as a historic public space through which to foster knowledge and understanding about Maine’s full and vibrant Black history, past, present and future.

Authorized in 2021 on a bipartisan basis, Congressionally-Directed Spending reflects funding priorities advocated for by a state’s Senators and Representatives, and is included in annual federal appropriations legislation to provide a specific amount of discretionary funding to a state, locality, or nonprofit organization for projects with demonstrated civic and community value. In the 2022 Omnibus Appropriations Package, which passed 68-31, Senator King secured funding for 93 Maine projects for a total of $137,252,598.

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