Time Out From Gas Engines

85-year-old part of  heritage

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Sec, Steams County Pioneer Club, Inc., Box 482, Albany, Minnesota 56307

Engine and old iron enthusiasts take time out to preserve a different piece of history!!! Every once in a while (once in a great while!!) something comes up that requires even the most dedicated antique equipment restorer to ignore the old iron and help with an entirely different kind of project. This happened in August of 1989 to some of the members of the Stearns County Pioneer Club of Albany, Minnesota. Dedicated to preserving our heritage in all forms, these members received word of an old church whose parish was being dissolved. The church itself would be vacated and could be torn down or whatever.

The members of the Pioneer Club just couldn't bear the thought of having this 85-year-old part of our heritage destroyed or left standing vacant and a sure target for vandals. This building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. So the club bought the church and decided to move it to their showgrounds to preserve it. Moving any building is a task, and if that building is 54 feet wide and 96 feet long and weighs about 280 tons, it gets to be a big and EXPENSIVE task.

So a big fund-raising drive was launched to see if the $35,000 in moving costs, wire cutting, etc., could be raised because, as with most nonprofit organizations, there was no surplus in the club's bank account. The fund drive started in August, and by mid-October enough donations and pledges were gathered to give the project the go-ahead.

Club members took inventory and began removing many of the smaller artifacts from the church as it was prepared for its journey to their showgrounds. In November, the building movers' crew started the process of punching holes in the old rock foundation so they could get their long metal beams under the building. In one week it was jacked up and ready to move.

December 12 was the day picked for the actual move. The snows stayed away, so the roads were clear. It was very cold with temps a few degrees below zero that morning, but the movers decided to go. (They debated because the iron beams, etc. get really brittle in the extreme cold and the risk of breaking things is much greater!!) So, at 9 a.m. that cold December 12, 1989 morning, the church started its eight-mile journey to the Pioneer Club Showgrounds which was to be its new home. Pioneer Club members needed to go ahead of the building and take down all highway signs, etc., because the church was so wide. Another crew followed behind and put them up again. The power companies had to cut over 30 wires to permit the church with its high steeple to pass. At 3:30 p.m., 61/2 hours later, the church had reached the club grounds. It took almost two more days to get the building pulled in place across the hole that had been dug for the basement. The weather stayed below zero and the movers did snap off one of their big booms as they were pulling the church into place.

In January the block layers laid up the cement block walls, etc., and on January 25, 1990, the church was lowered down onto its new basement walls on the southwest corner of the club property.

The members' goal was to have the church open to the public for viewing at the 16th annual Albany Pioneer Days Threshing Show which was held on September 14, 15, 16, 1990. The week before the show, the steps were finally installed for visitors to get into the church.

As the exhibitors started arriving for the show with their 350 plus engines of all shapes and sizes, they found themselves unloading their equipment in front of this towering church building. The weather was beautiful all three days of the show. The record crowds watched the giant parade of old tractors, steamers, trucks, horses, etc., wind along the parade route and pass by in front of this majestic old church building.

Much work needs to be done yet. Our funds are once again depleted, so we need to raise more money to finish this huge project. Plans are to pour the cement floor in the basement in early spring of 1991. Landscaping needs to be done. We also hope to put in a small kitchen, bathrooms, etc., in the near future, as funds will allow.

We thank everyone who has helped us in any way with this project. We also invite everyone to come to our annual threshing show, which is held the second weekend after Labor Day each September, and see what a magnificent showpiece this old church turned out to be.

Looking out across our showgrounds, all the members and 'old iron' lovers can be very proud of their decision to take time out from engines to save this priceless part of our heritage.