Wednesday turned out to be a milestone in the continued restoration of the 1912 period Presbyterian Church building at 212 W. Fourth St. in Fordyce.
The six largest and most impressive stained glass panels were restored by Soos Glass of Maumelle and reinstalled in custom-made wooden frames by Ernest Waters Construction of Fordyce. Ernest Waters Construction is also in the process of renovating all the windows in the old church, returning them to their original condition and making them fully functional.
Beginning in October 2017, a small group of civic-minded residents came together as the “Historic Fordyce” for the express purpose of saving the long-neglected historic structure in the heart of their hometown.
In April 2018, they had taken possession of the former Presbyterian Church from Reverend Roderick Rogers, which had previously been given title to the North Louisiana Presbytery. In April 2018, Historical Fordyce Inc. was incorporated as a 501 (c) (3) tax deductible organization and began the long process of salvaging the Gothic Revival brick structure from the ravages of time. and neglect.
Among the many notable features of the building are its 35 stained glass windows and 12 glass doors. One of the major donors and Fordyce Presbyterian charter was AB Banks, whose Home Insurance Co. provided coverage for southern sawmills and who built the historic AB Banks building on Fordyce’s main street.
During the Grand Tour of Europe with his wife Charlotte, the couple ordered the windows of the church. They were built by the famous Murano glass factory in Venice, Italy. Being a frugal businessman, Banks struck a deal for windows and doors to be used as ballast for ships, transporting them for free to the bottom of the hold of an Atlantic passage in New Orleans.
From there, they traveled by river barge and train to the Fordyce railway junction, where the allure of stained glass remains to this day. The elegant simplicity of the windows reflects Reformed theology. Even so, they might have seemed too ornate to some conservative-minded Presbyterians in 1912. One aspect of the 109-year-old multi-colored glass is the way it changes color throughout the day depending on the weather. angle of the sun.
Many steps of the renovation process were completed, including drilling under the footing and pouring concrete foundation reinforcement to stabilize the brick walls. In addition, all roof leaks were repaired and water damaged floors replaced. Thanks to these improvements, the building is once again protected from the elements.
With the preservation of the antique glass complete, an important step in the ongoing reclamation has been taken. The progress made so far would not have been possible without the efforts of several donors. These include Steve Anthony of Anthony Timberlands and Donnie White of Ray White Lumber Co. for the pine lumber needed to replace rotten floors and joists, roof decking and window frames.
Sheet metal flanges for the roof repairs were supplied by Weaver Heat and Air and Allstate Roofing, both of Fordyce. Holt Builder’s Supply also offered huge discounts on construction resources.
Without essential funding, the project would never have gone so far. The Roy and Christine Sturgis Charitable and Educational Trust of Arkadelphia provided a building grant of $ 26,405 for window restoration.
Other contributors include Walmart and the Dallas County Museum, Jim and Jo Jackson, Mike and Mitzi Garlington, Chris and Ruby Stanfield and Bill Tidball, among others. Fordyce Inc.’s historic board members have worked tirelessly, organizing fundraisers, tours and t-shirt sales for fry and barbecues since the beginning.
Some other unique aspects of the historic structure include the sloping hardwood sanctuary floor with diagonal seating to give each guest an ideal view. The ancient members fondly remember the antique pipe organ as a favorite feature of the devotees. The three outer towers are reinforced with stone details to resemble castle battlements.
According to church historian and Fordyce Inc. historical secretary / treasurer, Cheryl Brewer, “The original 1912 window frames were made from pine trees that were excavated from the property for the church construction and crushed to SM Apple Lumber Co. of Fordyce. “
She further stated, “Col. Samuel Wesley Fordyce,” who spotted the Cotton Belt Railroad route between Tyler, Texas, and New Madrid, Missouri, “donated the original bell to the church on its completion in 1912 in honor of the first the church house in the new community at the edge of the track that bears his name. “
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the community monument was designed by renowned architect Reuben Harrison Hunt of Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is now one of the ten most endangered historic sites in Arkansas.
It is expected that with continued financial support, the building will be open for public events as the city’s privately funded auditorium by 2022. In the meantime, tours will be offered at the upcoming Fordyce on the Cotton Belt. Festival to be held next door in Dallas County. Courthouse Square on June 17, 18 and 19.
With the project now halfway through, the entire restoration is estimated at around $ 250,000. Investing is both an act of reverence for the past and a hope for a future where the spirit of community can flourish through private and public events. The revitalized facility will comfortably accommodate 600 people for large gatherings such as live music performances, weddings, concerts, plays, receptions, family reunions and more.
For more details, interested parties should call (870) 313-2717. Tax deductible contributions can be made to Historical Fordyce Inc. at PO Box 14, Fordyce, AR, 71742.
Ron Dwarshak (top) and Nathan Cathey reinstall the stained glass windows of the old Presbyterian Church in Fordyce. (Special at The Commercial / Richard Ledbetter)
(Left to right) Ron Dwarshak, Nathan Cathey and Ernest Waters catch their breath after reinstalling freshly renovated 1912 period Murano stained glass in newly reconstructed wooden frames. (Special at The Commercial / Richard Ledbetter)