New Rockford Transcript - Official Newspaper of Eddy County since 1883

Museum's historic church undergoes improvements


October 14, 2019

Rachel Brazil

Now: Contractor Dean Wallace takes advantage of a beautiful day to make progress on the replacement of the Stavanger Church roof at the Eddy County Museum.

The Eddy County Museum is under construction, thanks to the generosity of the community.

"It's been a long time that we've been raising funds to repair the roof of the Stavanger Lutheran Church," says Eddy County Museum and Historical Society President Amy Wobbema.

After counting up the change from this Prairie Jubilee, the board had to face the music. "We couldn't wait another season, we had to get these repairs taken care of now, or we wouldn't be opening the church for tours in the spring," said Wobbema.

Local contractor Dean Wallace agreed to do the work on the roof. Wallace provided an estimate to the tune of $11,000 for the roof- about $4,000 more than the historical society had anticipated. Interestingly enough, $4,000 was the exact amount awarded to the museum in September when treasurer Sandy O'Connor approached the New Rockford Eagles Club. Wallace commenced work during the week of Sept. 16, and expects to complete the roof this season.

These improvements coincide with the 35 year anniversary of when the Stavanger Church arrived on the Eddy County Museum grounds in October 1984, joining the Brantford depot and Dodds schoolhouse.

The Stavanger Church was originally constructed and dedicated on Oct. 28, 1909, southwest of New Rockford. It served the rural population near Cathay for over 70 years. A special celebration service was held on July 10, 1983 before it closed its doors.

After closing the church, the church board and members expressed a desire to preserve the church and contacted the Eddy County Museum. While the church was donated to the museum, the historical society was responsible for paying for the costs associated its move.

According to the Eddy County Historical Society meeting minutes from Aug. 8, 1984, Clifford Hallquist had donated $500 to the museum to finance the move. Soon after, Alice Rindt accepted another $500 check from Paul Neis, the manager of the New Rockford Eagles Club, to help defray the cost.

The church arrived at its new home on Oct. 20, 1984. New Rockford resident and then vice-president of the historical society Metta McDowell said it was a serious coordinated effort. 

"It was costly to move the building," she said, highlighting challenges in navigating overhead electrical lines and railroad tracks. In addition, the Dodds school building had to be moved to make room for the new addition.

McDowell recalls, "We were always volunteer based, and we were so fortunate to have so many people who were willing to do the work."

In June of 1985, a series of improvements began to prepare the grounds for opening on July 1. Volunteers installed sidewalks connecting the three buildings and soil was brought in from the Starke farm and stockpiled for landscaping.

Today the Stavanger Church building serves as a gathering space for events and meetings, and houses collections of books, documents, religious artifacts, military items and more.

Then: The Stavanger Church was moved to its current location on Oct. 20, 1984. This photo appeared in the June 12, 1985 issue of the "Transcript" as a crew of volunteers began installing sidewalks and landscaping. From left to right: Jack McDowell, Rib Bass, George Hitz, Manfred Bymoen, Bill Seiler, Horton Starke, Clifford Hallquist. Not pictured were Jim Evanson and Martin Mauck.

For as much work that folks put into welcoming the Stavanger Church into the neighborhood, it is only fitting that this generation of Historical Society members make a solid effort to care for and preserve the integrity of the building.

While the roof improvements should be complete before winter sets in, there is more work to be done.

Wallace removed the acoustic tiles from the damaged drop ceiling in the church's interior, revealing the original dome ceiling constructed with plaster and lathe.

The Historical Society board is currently considering whether to repair the drop ceiling or restore the original ceiling. The next meeting is planned for Nov. 18. Any one interested in joining the board is welcome to attend the meeting.

In addition, if you are interested in donating to the repair and restoration of the museum buildings, you many send your donation to the Eddy County Historical Society at PO Box 135, New Rockford, ND 58356.  

Be sure to stay tuned for more updates on what's happening inside and outside the museum.


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