Members of the First Presbyterian Church have been worshipping since 2001 in their Family Living Center, an education structure built nearby in the 1990s because the historic church, constructed in 1864, had become structurally unsafe.
After spending years deciding what to do, the congregation decided tearing the old church down and replacing it with a new one was the best course of action. Cost to build a new sanctuary was substantially less than the price to make the old building stronger.
The Presbyterians filed a demolition permit with the city in late 2005. News the building might be destroyed caused a furor.
A preservationist during one meeting of the Historic Resources Commission suggested the city or state buy the church campus and allow the parishioners to relocate in a fashion similar to St. Teresa of Avila, which left the downtown and moved to Lompa Lane.
The parishioners, however, had no intention of leaving downtown, especially after their new Family Life Center has been completed only several year's prior and the loan for it just recently paid off.
The historic church was constructed with financial help from Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain. It is also one of a handful of buildings in Nevada linked to the author. His brother, Orion Clemens, was a Presbyterian. Proceeds from Twain's first paid speech, $200, were used to complete the church's roof because the congregation couldn't afford to finish the work, according to Guy Rocha, interim administrator of the Nevada State Library and Archives.
Its original section is thought to be the oldest church structure in Nevada. St. Peter's Episcopal Church and First United Methodist Church are both near First Presbyterian. All three were built within a few years of each other and are considered important locations within the city's historic district.
The city's Historic Resources Commission approved the church's plans to demolish the 1940s-era section of its old church on 110 N. Nevada St. in 2006. Getting rid of that section is what made room for the new sanctuary. The design for the entire property preserves parts of the old church constructed in 1864 and the 1890s while providing enough space for a new, larger sanctuary.
• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber @nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.