The Churchtown church
By Annette Tait
The heart of a church is its people. And the people of the retired Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church -- better known as Churchtown -- have faith they can save the almost 125-year-old building for future generations.
“We’re just working on prayers at this point,” said Marla Hagemeister, who is spearheading efforts to move the building off its crumbling foundation. “[St. Paul] Lutheran Church in Center is our sister church, so they’re very involved.”
The Churchtown church has been lovingly maintained over the years, even though it was officially retired in 1988. A fresh coat of paint was applied two years ago, and a new steel roof is nearly completed, replacing the old asphalt shingles.
“We scraped the church by ourselves [to prepare for painting], so that was all donated,” Hagemeister said, adding that Keith Hoesel, Hoesel Construction, donated equipment so volunteers could reach the tower.
Dale Hoger, owner of Countryside Construction and Hagemeister’s brother-in-law, is putting on the new roof, and has done a lot of repairs to the building. Hoesel has also done a lot of the exterior repairs to keep the weather out and animals from getting in.
“He’s been great about that,” Hagemeister said. “He’s also fixed some of the windows by putting Plexiglas over them, and they’re the ones who got the basement set up so we could pump it.”
Despite regular maintenance and improvements to the exterior, the local landmark is deteriorating from beneath. The basement walls and floors have frost heaves that threaten the integrity of the structure.
“When it was built, it didn’t have a basement,” Hagemeister said. “They put the basement under it in the late 1940s. There’s no rebar or anything in there, it’s just the cement blocks. That’s what they thought back then, and it worked -- for a while.”