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Published May 16, 2012, 09:33 PM

Historic Grand Forks Church Razed as Residents Watch

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — The oldest wood-framed church in Grand Forks was reduced to rubble, razing with it more than 100 years of memories for generations of the city's residents.

By: Associated Press,

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — The oldest wood-framed church in Grand Forks was reduced to rubble, razing with it more than 100 years of memories for generations of the city's residents.

The Trinity Lutheran Church was built at 224 Walnut St. around 1905. Later it became the United Lutheran Church — though residents referred to it as "The Old Church on Walnut Street." It was razed Tuesday.

"Unfortunately, at a certain point, you can't hold on to things," said Emily Wright, executive director of the Grand Forks Community Land Trust. "It's sad whenever you have to tear a building down. Our goal is to bring this neighborhood back as one that's lived in and thriving and what it used to be."

Officials said the aging building was unsalvageable, ravaged by asbestos and lead-based paint. Its structure was compromised in a March 10, 1944, fire, Wright said.

"The fire is really what took away the historic integrity of it," she said. "It's a pretty building, but it looks more like a rebuild than the original."

Before the building was razed, Wright's organization worked alongside the University of North Dakota's history department to document the church and its congregational communities in a book, according to the Grand Forks Herald (http://bit.ly/L9bYCM ).

"The Old Church on Walnut Street: A Story of Immigrants and Evangelicals" was written by Chris Price, a UND graduate student.

Though the building had not been a place of worship since before the flood of 1997, residents still gathered outside as the building was torn down and reminisced about their days of worship there.

Thomas "Marty" Martzall, 75, captured the destruction on his digital camera Tuesday. He told the Herald that he was baptized there and later worked as a church treasurer.

"The one thing you can count on is change," Martzall said as he watched the teardown.

The Grand Forks Historic Preservation Commission removed the spire Monday and plans to preserve it.


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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