St. Mark’s Preservation Square

St. Mark’s Preservation Square

By Claudia East, Secretary, Yreka Preservation

It was in the spring of 2011, following the closure of the 1880 historic St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Yreka that the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California began the process of gifting the property to the Yreka Committee for Historic Preservation, a non-profit corporation. Preservation was pleased to work with Lynn Zender, representing the Diocese, before, during and following the final transfer of title to the property. The Board of Directors especially would like to let everyone know how smooth this process was and how Lynn was a large part of the success.

Since taking charge of the property and following the title transfer, Yreka Preservation has been working hard to be good stewards of this amazing historical property. In honor of the service that St. Mark’s gave to our community for over 130 years we re-named the property, St. Mark’s Preservation Square. The transition from a beloved Episcopal Church to an unconsecrated building has been difficult for many former members of the church. However, in an effort to smooth the transition, one of the first things we did was to present an Organ and Clarinet Concert by a beloved former member and organist, Dorothy Hester, and we invited each of the former members of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church as well as the public to the performance. It was received very well.

We at Preservation have been working to balance the needs and wants of the community with the goals of our non-profit to preserve this historic property as well as to find ways to keep matters fiscally sound. We regularly rent out the church building each Sunday to other religious organizations to hold their worship services. We also use the beautiful chapel and its most excellent acoustics for musical performances. We have had a wonderful variety of concerts from a Tuba Quartet and Classical Pianist and Violinist from Julliard to Celtic music with local musicians. We have hosted about 8 concerts this past year. Preservation has been fortunate to partner with another local non profit group, The Red Scarf Society for Performing Arts to help bring musical venues to our lovely space. We house a marvelous 1950 restored Baldwin baby grand piano for The Red Scarf Society. We also rent out the church building to groups or individuals. We have seen Eagle Scout Ceremonies, Birthday parties, Service Club Meetings, and other Concerts and Events through the doors, as well as historical tours and meetings. Once we even were paid to ring the bell in the tower for a wedding at the adjacent Catholic Church as they do not have a bell. At the square is also a series of former Sunday school rooms, we have turned those rooms into artist studios and rent each out for a very reasonable monthly rate. We have been very fortunate in that as soon as one is empty there is someone waiting to take their place! The former rectory that was built in 1890 is the structure on the property that needs the most restoration at this time. We intend to eventually turn the downstairs into a research center for Yreka and emphasize the history of the buildings and homes in town. We accepted a large donation of research materials from the Meamber family and this Research Center will contain the Fred & Bernice Meamber Collection. Currently we have the office for Yreka Preservation in this building, and we also rent the rooms in the upstairs of the former rectory to artists.

During the past year we have concentrated on making what we felt were the most important repairs on the church building in an effort to preserve the structure. Early on, even before title transfer, thanks to the Diocese, we were able to have the bell tower re-roofed; it was in great need as the owls were nesting through the openings. Next we worked on one of the rooms in the former rectory to create our office space. We partially restored the room and were able to refinish the original flooring. We also began restoration efforts in the entry hall of the former rectory and uncovered the original 1890 wallpaper! Thanks to the diligence of the Diocese we were able to have the underground oil tank removed and restored the patio area. One important feature we were able to accomplish was to renovate the restrooms off of the patio area (former Sunday school room area) into a handicapped accessible restroom. Not having an accessible restroom was a barrier and we are pleased to have been able to get this done. Our most important accomplishment and number one goal were to have the church roof re-shingled. It was a major project, and we had the roof replicated to its original design as close as we could with modern materials. We have been very pleased with the result and the community has been most complimentary.

There have been many other projects that have taken place at St. Mark’s Preservation Square, but many on a much smaller scale, from replacing faucets, adding plants to the garden areas, to a new hot water heater that serves the church social hall. We still have a long way to go to meet many of our major goals in protecting and preserving St. Mark’s Square, but we are thankful for what we have been able to accomplish. We owe our membership and the community a large thank you for their continued help and support. Yreka is benefiting from the gift of St. Mark’s to Yreka Preservation in many ways and we hope to increase the benefits to our community each year.

We invite all interested persons to visit our website see additional photos, peruse our calendar of events and learn more of what we are doing at their leisure. www.yrekapreservation.org

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Mary Ellen Bryan wrote:
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article, Claudia. Having a well-written summary of significant events and achievements is a wonderful thing.

Sat, July 28, 2012 @ 10:37 AM

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