A Tamaqua church has major plans to improve access for members of its congregation.

Construction work for installation of an elevator has kicked into high gear at First United Methodist Church, 124 West Broad St., Tamaqua, according to the Rev. Jim Cavallero.

The 1852 brick and stone church is located within the Tamaqua National Historic District, and the church already has obtained appropriate approvals from zoning officials and the Tamaqua Historical Architectural Review Commission in order to begin with plans.

Heavy equipment is stationed adjacent to the church at the site of the former parsonage and last week a deep trench was dug to lay a foundation for the elevator shaft.

As congregations age at many churches, multi-story, 19th century churches often find themselves with a need to construct elevators for the convenience and accessibility of members. In fact, two other churches within one block of First United Methodist were retrofitted with elevators over the years.

In 1970, the First Presbyterian Church, 220 W. Broad St., installed and unveiled an elevator in its historic 1852 building. The elevator was dedicated by member J. Keilman Dudley in memory of his father John Lester Dudley. The congregation celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1996. The church building closed 11 years later as a result of consolidation, with the final service held on June 3, 2007. The building now serves as a private residence, art studio and gallery.

St. Jerome's Catholic Church, 266 W. Broad St., installed an elevator and dedicated it on September 24, 2000, along with unveiling the St. Jerome's Memorial Parish Center at the former site of the Tamaqua Salvation Army.