Stepping into The Old Church in Post Falls, it’s hard to imagine that it almost fell victim to the wrecking ball.
Even in its current condition, it is an elegant, sturdy structure with, no doubt, more than a few stories to tell. It is stripped to the rafters, exposing new wiring, plumbing, a sprinkler system and even an elevator. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is the oldest of Post Falls’ historic properties. Now, life will return to The Old Church as it becomes a community arts and cultural center.
The Old Church is actually two churches that were moved together. The southern section, built in 1890, has Gothic Revival architecture with tall Gothic windows facing south, east and west allowing sunshine to stream in. It was originally the First Methodist Episcopal Church at Sixth Avenue and Post Street. The northern section, with Prairie-Gothic-style architecture, was built in 1899 as the Presbyterian Church at Second Avenue and Henry Street.
After World War I, Post Falls had more churches than it needed, so drawn by horses, the church buildings were moved together in 1921 to their present location on the corner of Fourth and Williams. The new congregation became the Community Presbyterian Church. It has since built a new church adjacent to The Old Church.
“Frederick Post, the founder of Post Falls’ memorial service, was in the Presbyterian Church,” said Susan Jacklin, president of Community Building Partners, the nonprofit organization formed in 1998 to save the church.
The building was abandoned for eight to 10 years before John Rodkey was to take the building down in exchange for materials. In the process, he realized how sturdy the building was and halted the project.
“He saw that it was really stable and strong and went back to the church and said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ ” said Betsy Bullard, the program development director for The Old Church. “The church couldn’t commit to renovating it, so they decided to sell it.”
That was when Jacklin and others stepped in to save it.
“This is so cool – this building was the plan for all across the United States, so you’ll see this design in Methodist-Episcopal churches all across the United States,” Jacklin said.
Bullard will coordinate the building’s many uses. The first big event, appropriately called Art in the Rough to echo the unfinished status of the building, will take place Friday. Art in the Rough will also be a part of Post Falls Days.
“We don’t have the money to move in yet,” Jacklin said of the project. “This is for public awareness; we’re doing something that is unique to the way this building is right now, so it’s pretty exciting that we get to do this. The bottom line is we’re anxious to get enough money to move in.”
Art in the Rough kicks off with an artists’ reception from 5:30 until 9 p.m. Friday. The non-juried show will feature more than 60 local artists and close to 200 pieces of art. For many artists, this will be their first show. Better-known artists such as Terry Lee, Terri Austin-Beech, Charlene Martin, photographer Ernest Fokes and Spokane blown-glass artist Steve Adams also will have their work represented. The event is free, but there will be raffle tickets available for various pieces of art as well as other donation opportunities.
The show continues Saturday with several artist talks. At 1 p.m. Fokes will talk about his photography; at 2 p.m. Richard Bohn will present his ceramic hearts and sumi painting; at 3 p.m. wildlife painter and sculptor Terry Lee will share his art; and at 4 p.m. Joel Nelson, a blown-glass artist, and Louise Telford, a fused glass artist, will share their gifts.
Telford has trained at the Pilchuck glass school north of Seattle and is a member of the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, which features millions of dollars worth of art by famed glass artist Dale Chihuly. Telford will show a piece called “Composition in Black and White” at Art in the Rough.
“This concept of using alternative space is a concept that they use in bigger cities like Seattle and Portland,” Telford said.
The Old Church will have a full-service kitchen in the basement, called Mrs. E’s kitchen, named after Mrs. Eisenhauer, who was the home economics teacher in Post Falls from 1914 to 1958. The kitchen will have a mobile work station for cooking classes. The approximately $100,000 for the kitchen is coming from donations from former students of Eisenhauer. The basement also has large men’s and women’s restrooms and a green room/bride’s room for changing.
A section called Heritage Hall will display historical memorabilia and documents. An outdoor porch can accommodate weddings, as can the spacious upstairs level. Bullard anticipates other uses for The Old Church could include classes, dances, dinner theater and cultural events.
Art in the Rough continues next Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and June 6 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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