Photo courtesy of Holbrook United Methodist Church
The original 1913 structure of the Holbrook United Methodist Church was recently spared from demolition due to deterioration of its 102-year-old adobe walls, thanks, in part to the fundraising and goodwill efforts of its pastor and congregation. The building is slated for rededication in March 2016.
By Nolan Madden
It’s no secret that over 130 years ago, a small northern Arizona town named Holbrook was labeled as a place “too tough for women and churches.”
And so, with no law enforcement to speak of in what was one of the country’s most violent cities, women and churches remained out of sight. That is, until 1913, when a steeple topped the first building to turn Holbrook’s reputation around.
Time has passed and taken its toll on that first church, today home to the United Methodist Church. A rehabilitation is taking place in the fellowship room that stood as the original church when it was built more than a century ago.
“When this church was built, it was out in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing here in 1913, none of these houses were here. An invoice we found said that the cost for the building back then was $1,500,” explained Pastor Jimmy Nelson Jr.
“We found out that the mortar between the adobe bricks from the original structure was deteriorating. These bricks weren’t your standard bricks, they’re strictly mud and water without any binders, because that’s what they had available at the time,” he explained.
Nelson noted that the initial plan was to level and rebuild the damaged structure, but it was retained on the recommendation of locals.
“We spent $3,000 getting the adobe deterioration process stopped. Now we’re in the process of putting it back together,” said Nelson.
The pastor and his brother, Doug Kubik, are no strangers to restoration projects, both having tools and know-how from 25 years of flipping real estate in northern California, buying and fixing properties that need repair before reselling them for a profit.
The project is now in its third month of progress and, once completed, will include repair, stabilization and waterproofing of damaged structural bricks, removal and resurfacing of original pine-slat flooring, replacement of rotted floor joists, installation of new floor underlayment, removal of acoustic ceiling tiles, restoration of the room’s original wood-slat ceiling and installation of original-era lighting fixtures.
The property’s lawn sprinkler system, which caused the structure’s deterioration due to incorrect installation, will also be replaced. The room’s 102-year-old gothic-arched glass windows will remain intact.
“Most of it is sweat equity. We’re doing most of the work ourselves, the ladies of the church are making curtains and Doug is a landscaper. We’re still looking at about $10,000 to $12,000 in total repairs. So far we’ve raised $6,100, of which we’ve spent $3,600,” noted Nelson.
He also related that the tear-out revealed that the room’s original heater is in need of replacement, tacking an additional $1,600 onto reconstruction costs.
According to Nelson, the church’s annual budget is $60,000. Its 20-member congregation raised the funds on-hand so far through a capital campaign, but they still fall short of the full estimated cost.
Nelson, who is originally from Las Vegas, says he witnessed historic beacons of the Las Vegas strip systematically disappear as newer buildings were constructed to replace the Sands, The Hacienda and The Landmark hotels.
“You don’t get those icons back,” he said. “I was really glad we didn’t have to tear the church here down, because it would have been a piece of Holbrook history that could have gone the way of the Bucket of Blood Saloon.
“I don’t know who owns the Bucket of Blood Saloon, but I’d give my right arm to go into that building someday, because that type of thing just fascinates me. The history is so rich.”
The church plans to invite the bishop of the area UMC Conference to the building’s rededication in March 2016, and will continue to offer the room for meeting use.
“This is not just our church, this the city’s. It is a piece of the history of this community,” Nelson stated.
Holbrook UMC would be happy to accept donations in the form of funds or building materials. Call 928-524-3753 for more information.