Wittenberg Lutheran celebrates 112th anniversary with replica
GRANITE QUARRY — There were tears of joy in the audience at Wittenberg Lutheran Church on Sunday when member Cecil Whitley presented the congregation with a scaled replica of the original church that was built in 1901.
When the decision was made to construct a new church on the corner of Oak and Bank streets in 1935, the original facility was put up for sale.
That building, at the corner of Main and Church streets in what was then known as Woodside, was purchased by a family and converted into a house.
Whitley tasked local woodcarver Narv Parks with creating the replica, which served as a gift to mark the church’s 112th anniversary.
Parks said he knew the project would be a “spiritual labor of devotion” because there was no original floor plan of the church.
“The only visual available was a very small artist sketch of the original 1901 church that became the basis of the model I would carve,” he said.
When Parks found out from Whitley that the original church was still standing, he decided to take a chance and see if homeowners Scott and Amy Bauguess would allow him to come inside.
After arriving at the home, he was invited in without hesitation.
“Many changes had been made to the original church structure,” Parks said.
The steeple had been removed and replaced with a front porch, the house is now two stories instead of one and the heart-pine siding had been covered with asbestos siding.
“To begin the replica, I created a scale and gathered details such as roof pitches, window sizes and placement,” he said. “I made a sketch and documented sizes for the basic frame.”
Parks decided he needed wood at least 100 years old or older to make the replica authentic, so he used planks from the side of a barn built at the turn of the century.
“The old heart-pine boards from the log barn gained a new life when I planed them down to one-quarter of an inch,” he said.
The base of the structure was made with the same pink granite the current church building was constructed with.
It took Parks about three months to complete the model.
During that time, only Whitley and the church pastor Thomas Cogan knew of the project.
“We kept it kind of hush-hush, so it would be a surprise,” Whitley said.
When Whitley presented the congregation with the replica, emotion filled the sanctuary immediately.
“It brought back a lot of memories for a lot of people,” he said.
Whitley said he decided to have the replica made because at the time there was merely a lackluster drawing of the original church.
“We didn’t have anything that really captured it,” he said.
Carolyn Peeler, whose husband was raised in the house that was converted from the church, helped Whitley present the model to the church members.
“I told her she was going to present a gift, but I didn’t tell her what it was,” he said. “When I unveiled it she started crying.”
Whitley had a showcase made to display the model year round.
“It’s really a neat little piece,” he said.
Church members put together a time capsule that was placed in a secret compartment inside the case.
Items placed inside the wooden time capsule included extra shingles from the roof, a letter from Parks about the construction of the replica and a doorknob from the original church.
Following the presentation, church members gathered in the fellowship hall for lunch.
Caterer Debbie Suggs made an edible cake replica of the church, based on Parks’ creation.
“We enjoyed a celebration of our church history,” Whitley said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.