RUGBY, ND – An old church near Rugby was worn out, but some passionate patrons are giving the prairie landmark a facelift.
The church now looks like it did over 100 years ago thanks to restoration. Project leader Terry Jelsing said he remembers attending services here as a child.
“I would be on one of those pews with my dad around six in the morning for a sunrise service, and it wouldn’t be very hot here, especially in April. What stuck with you a little bit about this place was the smell of pancakes and coffee coming up through the grates in the back,” Terry said.
The white prairie steeple is a classic of rural America fading into our time. “If we didn’t save them… There’s nothing there to prove he was actually here.” So it’s real, the reality is there’s a church here, and it looks a lot like it did 100 years ago,” said Cathy Jelsing of the Tunbridge Lutheran Church Preservation Society.
The organization began work in 2020 to open the building to community festivities and events.
“The style of a church is very, very common throughout the Midwest and the Northern Plains and so I think everyone will remember a family photo or a wedding photo,” Cathy said.
They have finished the exterior and will work on the interior next. “It’s a way of honoring them and it’s also a way of thinking about the structure as an adaptive reuse structure, something to share with the community,” Terry said.
They said they hoped to raise enough money to hold events to pay for building and cemetery upkeep in the future.
They have an open house on May 28 from 11 a.m. until afternoon, so people can check on progress and donate to the cause.
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