FORT SMITH, Ark. — First Evangelical Lutheran Church has been standing for more than a century and now, it’s being nominated to join the National Register of Historic Places.
“[People] love the beauty, they love the feel of the church,” said Brenda Acord, member of the Preservation Committee. “This is the first Lutheran church in Arkansas, so we are very proud of that fact.”
A church with history dating back to before the Civil War, Saxon-Germans chose this area to settle.
“The German Lutherans were very interested in educating their children and education wasn’t something that was readily available to everyone, so they established a school under the Garrison Avenue bridge,” Acord said. “Then, they worshipped in each others’ homes and eventually bought the property that we are on and built a frame church.”
The congregation grew quickly and the church that now stands on the corner of North D and West 12th Street was complete in 1904.
“It has remained here and preserved and upkept,” Acord said. “We just feel like it’s a very strong congregation and we are very proud of our roots.”
Rich in history and values, this church is hoping to add to that list by becoming a National Historic Site.
“It was one of the first settled things here and it’s been here a very long time,” Acord said. “It’s connected to a school and has just been around a long time and we feel like that’s a very important thing. I think it’s cornerstone. There’s been many generations that have worshipped here for many years.”
For those making the final decision in December, the pastor said it’s the beauty of the church and its people that make it so special.
“I hope that they recognize that this is a church that has been amazingly unchanged,” John Merrill said. “Just in things like the building and the beauty of it, we try out best to maintain and preserve that.”
Merrill said the increasing amount of guests are something he looks forward to.
“It’s going to be nice,” Merrill said. “We always welcome everybody that comes. It doesn’t matter where they’re coming from or their kinds of background and struggles, we’re welcoming all who come.”
The review board will consider the church to be added to the National Register of Historic Places on Dec. 7 in Little Rock. There are more than a dozen properties in the state being considered.
(KFSM for CBS News)