Reinforcement of the oldest church in Fairbanks | Alaska News


Fairbanks’ oldest church building, currently located in Pioneer Park, is being renovated following large-scale rehabilitation and slight interior facelift, according to Fairbanks North Borough Director of Parks and Recreation Star, Donnie Hayes.

The rehabilitation of the first 117-year-old Presbyterian Church, also known as Cabin 15 in the park, included improvements to its structural supports as well as interior cracks in its plaster and paint.

Hayes said the work was completed in September.

“It took about a year from design to completion,” Hayes said during a brief visit Wednesday. “We worked with our contractor and our public works department and it was not a short process. “

A step inside reveals a simple building, with a main worship hall, a second-floor toilet, and a small room at the back for storage. The walls of the chapel are painted eggshell white and lit by hanging lights. A set of eight wooden benches – four on each side – can accommodate up to 50 people, enough for a small congregation facing a large portrait of Jesus Christ. The subdued January light enters through the stained glass windows at the front of the church hall.

The borough also replaced the church’s shingled roof with a metal roof to withstand the harsh indoor winters.

“When the Masonic Temple collapsed a few years ago, we knew from the snow loads that this was a building we needed to make improvements,” said Hayes.

The sloping roof on the second story of the historic First Avenue Masonic Temple collapsed due to a heavy snow load in March 2018 after surviving 112 years of fires, floods and earthquakes.

Hayes said the borough evaluated the structure of the chapel building and got to work to consolidate it. Prior to the rehabilitation, Hayes said the sides of the chapel exhibited noticeable curvature due to decades of wear and tear.

The upgrades included the addition of beam supports inside the main building and on the roof access.

“We had to make a hole under the window above the door where we had to slide the beams,” Hayes said.

Beams were also added to the foundations of the building.

“A lot of those foundation sections that the church is built on were rotten, so we replaced those rotten sections with new beams and protected them to prevent water from entering the foundation,” Hayes said. “Instead of having all the pressure on the exterior walls, the entire roof structure is held together by all the new beams.”

In addition to patching cracks in the wall and applying a new coat of paint, the borough installed new carpet to create more traction.

“We have put a lot of love and attention into this building over the past year,” said Hayes. “I hope we can have the First Presbyterian Church with us for at least 50 years. “

Hayes said contractors worked around the light fixtures and stained glass during the renovation, without needing to remove them.

The borough rents the chapel for weddings and other small events. The current Covid-19 pandemic temporarily suspended its use before resuming its use last year.

“It’s a very popular venue, especially for weddings,” said Hayes. “You can find a lot of people in Fairbanks who got married here, knew someone who was married here, or have married their children here over many generations. “

The Anglican Church of the Redeemer in Fairbanks also holds a Sunday service in the chapel, according to Hayes.

Pastor Stephen Cooper, who has led the congregation of about two dozen since his ordination in 2018, said he has seen a bit of improvement since the rehabilitation project ended, but remains the same.

“I see improvements. It was a bit skewed and now it’s a lot better, but the interior is pretty similar to what it was before, ”Cooper said.

The Redeemer Church has held chapel service since 1984. Cooper, a retired lawyer, has helped lead church services since the 1980s, long before his ordination.

“It’s very convenient and it’s centrally located and serves the purpose,” Cooper said. “It’s a nice setting and has a homely feeling. It is a very basic, border style building.

The chapel, originally the First Presbyterian Church, was one of the first two churches built in Fairbanks in 1904, according to historic architect and author Janet Matheson.

Matheson pointed out the chapel in his 1985 book “Fairbanks: A City Historic Building Survey”.

The 1,176 square foot chapel was built by minister, naturalist and writer Dr. S. Hall Young for $ 5,500, along with a cottage according to Mathesons’ book.

The building was originally located on the corner of Cushman Street and Seventh Avenue. The First Presbyterian Church was moved east in the 1930s, renamed Young Memorial Hall, and a new church was built.

The chapel was then moved to Pioneer Park in 1966. The front stained glass windows of the chapel came from the hut of the first Presbyterian mission in the neighboring colony, Chena, which was later dissolved.


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