VIDEO: Bonanazaville's new old church arrives, stopping traffic
WEST FARGO - The sounds of road construction on Main Avenue here were silent Tuesday, replaced by a calm quiet and the sight of South Pleasant Church lumbering down the street.
WEST FARGO – The sounds of road construction on Main Avenue here were silent Tuesday, replaced by a calm quiet and the sight of South Pleasant Church lumbering down the street.
The 135-year-old church perched on the beams of a moving truck ambled past rows of construction barrels and stopped traffic to its new home at Bonanzaville.
Kathy Olson was married in the prairie church formerly located in rural Christine, and attended services there until it closed in 2013. She and a handful of fellow South Pleasant Church members donated the church to Bonanzaville in July 2014.
It replaces St. John's Lutheran, Bonanzaville's former church and trademark that was destroyed by a fire in July 2014. The Cass County Historical Society, Bonanzaville's operating organization, expected to wait until the full $150,000 cost of moving the church and pouring a new foundation was raised. But after about $67,000 was raised, a benefactor agreed to loan Bonanzaville the remaining amount so the church could be moved this summer.
Wyndmere-based Schmit House Movers started moving the church without its steeple to West Fargo at 8 a.m. Tuesday using county roads. The steeple was moved into Bonanzaville in July.
The church arrived in West Fargo by 2 p.m., moving at 12 mph to 15 mph from the south and crossing Interstate 94 to enter West Fargo from the westbound lanes of the freeway. Nick Schmit said it is only the third time in his company's history that an interstate was shut down to allow for a move.
Schmit family members have moved buildings across North Dakota since 1936. Brothers Tony and Nick Schmit and Nick's son operate the moving company that has moved roughly half of the historic buildings to their homes at Bonanzaville.
While the church is solidly built, its age is factored into the move, Tony Schmit said. To prevent the middle from bowing, inside walls were secured with cable.
"You handle it with care. You just do the best you can," he said.
Great River Energy, Minnkota Power and Cass County Electric crews donated their time and the cost of lifting power lines to clear the church's path.
About a dozen onlookers awaited the church boasting a 32-by-50-foot sanctuary, stained-glass windows and two-story high ceilings.
As the church made its way into Bonanzaville's south entrance, Larry Johnson, a lifelong member of South Pleasant Church, was happy to see it will have a new life. Johnson said the church served mostly those of Norwegian descent, and only three pastors served the lutheran congregation over 103 years.
His wife, Janine Johnson, said South Pleasant remained in its original, yet cared-for condition, which included no running water or inside restroom facilities.
"That's why it was so perfect. It's a true prairie church," she said.
A foundation and full basement for the church will be poured on Sept. 14. After it is set, the church will be attached before the building opens to the public.
Missy Warren, special events and wedding coordinator for Bonanzaville, said the basement will include a kitchen, restrooms and a place for brides to prepare. The church will be available to the public for weddings and events.