First Presbyterian Church officials stop plan for demolition – for now |

First Presbyterian Church officials stop plan for demolition – for now

Terri Harber
Appeal Staff Writer

First Presbyterian Church officials have stopped their request to demolish their historic sanctuary – at least for now.

They and Carson City are working on an agreement that may allow a portion of the historic church to remain standing and the rest of the structure eventually to be rebuilt. The demolition request was removed from the Historic Resources Commission’s agenda during its Thursday meeting.

The church, at 110 N. Nevada St., is within the downtown redevelopment area, and the city intends to seek funds for restoration of its outside walls and to rehabilitate the old structure because of its historic, aesthetic and financial value to the community.

The city brought in experts to look at the structure to evaluate what can be done to rehabilitate the building and allow the church’s congregation a comfortable place to worship while not causing the church to pay what it might consider an out-of-reach price.

A new, larger sanctuary would be built on the other end of the block occupied by church facilities, facing Division street where a playground, small parking lot and old kitchen are now. The Division Street proposal by Reno architect Peter Wilday provides “just enough room,” said Ken Pearson, head of the church’s building committee.

There will be some “logistical challenges” and it “eliminates our dream of a view of the grass” from the sanctuary, but “it’s in the best interest of the community to go forward with this proposal,” Pearson said.

Some other changes to make the plan work would be to extend over the current property line on King Street by as much as five feet, and to create a “pull-in and drop-off” section on Division Street to allow easier entrance to disabled parishioners, for example.

The church also will need more off-site parking and wants the city to allow a future “additional facility” between Nevada Street and its Christian Education Building, and provide an expedited permit process and city liaison.

“Orion and Molly Clemens would be so proud of us all,” said McAvoy Layne of the attempt to reach an accord. The Mark Twain re-enactor has offered to help with fundraising for the old church.

The structure was constructed in 1864 with financial help from Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain. 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 Nevada state Archivist Guy Rocha.

“I think we could raise another $200 for this church,” Layne joked in Twain-like fashion.

The original section is the oldest church structure in Nevada. Other buildings tied to Twain are Orion Clemens’ house, the Stewart-Nye house, both also in Carson City, and the JohnD Winters Ranch in Washoe Valley, Rocha said.

The new design is scheduled before the commission March 22, while a progress report on the old church is expected April 13.

— Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber or 882-2111, ext. 215.