WAPELLO — Built in the middle of beautiful countryside, a lone church has stood against both time and weather since 1855.
Its windows state, “in memory of fathers and mothers from the young people of Fairview, 1905.”
Now, a local group hopes to preserve this church, allowing it and the history within it to stand for many more years to come.
“It’s in declining condition," said Diane Thayer, who was raised in Louisa County. "There’s some structural things that need to be addressed, but we feel that it is most definitely salvageable and, even more importantly, we feel that it is worth saving.”
On Sunday, Oct. 25 at 1 p.m., the Fairview Preservation Committee is holding its first public meeting to discuss efforts that can be done to save the Fairview Church. Guests are asked to bring their own chairs. Masks and social distancing are also requested, and anyone who hasn’t yet seen the historic church in person will be able to go inside and look around.
The committee is also encouraging those who may have stories or memories about Fairview to come and share them at the meeting. They will be gauging public support of the project and leadership roles, such as treasurer, will also be established at the meeting. Contributions of all sorts, from in-kind work to monetary donations, are welcomed.
Fairview Church stands on County Road H22, right near Hwy 99. Though the outside has changed over the years due to a devastating windstorm in 1900 — which led to the church being rebuilt in 1905 — the memories and the strong ties Fairview represents have remained strong for decades.
Fairview had regular service up until World War II. Afterwards, they were unable to find a permanent pastor, only able to have intermittent pastors with a brief resurgence in the 1950s. Afterwards, the church closed its doors and ceased having services, but would still open up for certain events or holidays up until the early 2000s.
While Thayer never attended service there, her grandmother did. She also has distant relatives buried in the cemetery near Fairview.
“I’ve always known about this church,” she said, “Last Memorial Day, my sister and I happened to be taking flowers to another cemetery, and we thought we would go out to some places that we haven’t been to in a while. When we got to Fairview, the door to the church happened to be unlocked. I went in, and saw just how stunning and beautiful it was on the inside.”
There are many unique and historic features to the church as well, such as the gorgeous stained-glass windows that are still intact to this day and the unique blend of architecture styles, features that the Fairview Preservation Committee doesn’t want to see lost to time.
“The people that built this church put so much obvious love and care into the building that my heart goes out to them and their descendants,” Thayer said. “I feel that this is something that we can’t let go away, because it was built with love and there is obviously still a lot of community love attached to this church.”
In preparation for what is sure to be an ambitious project, Thayer, her husband and two relatives, John and Nancy Hayes, have already begun researching the history of the church, speaking with groups such as the Louisa County Historic Preservation Commission, and taking photographs to begin the preservation process, along with making temporary repairs to the building.
She has also spoken with the group who previously attempted to rehabilitate and preserve the church in the 1990s, insisting that it is her generation’s turn to pick up the project and finish it.
“We’re not a long ways into the how-to’s, but I think we have a really solid base of options that we’re ready to pursue once we formulate a community-centered vision and plan for our project,” Thayer said.
There is plenty of issues that need to be addressed, including significant structure issues and water damage, and Thayer believes that this project will take about five years.
“If we’re looking at fundraising and grants, I know that takes time,” she said.
For short term goals, she hopes to get the church ready for winter by covering up any large holes in the roof in order to not only assure that there is no further structural damage done, but to also give the committee time to lay out fundraising plans, grant proposals and plans for the spring.
“I’m just so happy with the community outpour of support for this project that I’ve seen already,” Thayer said. “I’m really anxious to get more people involved, as well. It’s known as Fairview Community Church, and I’m excited to keep the community aspect of it. I think there’s a lot of good things ahead for this church and a lot of ways it can be utilized and loved, just as it was by the original Fairview community.”
For more information on this project, residents can contact Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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