Fort Smith Church Nominated To Be Added To National Historic Register

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- First Evangelical Lutheran Church has been standing for more than a century and now it has been nominated to be added to the National Register of Historic Places.

"[People] love the beauty, they love the feel of the church," said Brenda Acord, member of the Preservation Committee. "This is the first Lutheran church in Arkansas, so we are very proud of that fact."

The church's history dates back to before the Civil War when Saxon-Germans chose to settle in the area.

"The German Lutherans were very interested in educating their children and education wasn't something that was readily available to everyone, so they established a school under the Garrison Avenue Bridge," Acord said. "Then, they worshiped in each others' homes and eventually bought the property that we are on and built a frame church."

The congregation grew quickly and the church that now stands on the corner of North D and West 12th Streets was completed in 1904.

"It has remained here," Acord said. "We just feel like it's a very strong congregation and we are very proud of our roots."

Rich in history and values, the church hopes to preserve those by being designated a National Historic Site.

"It was one of the first settled things here and it's been here a very long time," Acord said. "I think it's cornerstone. There's been many generations that have worshiped here for many years."

Pastor John Merrill said it's the beauty of the church and its people that make it so special.

"I hope that they recognize that this is a church that has been amazingly unchanged," he said. "Just in things like the building and the beauty of it, we try out best to maintain and preserve that."

Merrill said the increasing amount of guests are something he looks forward to.

"It's going to be nice," he said. "We always welcome everybody that comes. It doesn't matter where they're coming from or their kinds of background and struggles, we're welcoming all who come."

The State Review Board of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program will consider the total of 13 nominated properties at their Dec. 7 meeting in Little Rock. A home in Fayetteville is also on the list.