Friday, August 21, 2009

former St. Elizabeth’s Catholic, DeValls Bluff

Back in April I was driving Highway 70 through DeValls Bluff when I spotted a church I wanted to photograph. So I hung a right in order to circle around, and came upon this little bit of history instead.

I didn't have time that day to ask around about it, so I figured I'd do some digging later on. Well, I never did.

Fast forward to last week when I read in the e-mailed newsletter from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program that their State Review Board had nominated one St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church in DeValls Bluff to the National Register of Historic Places. I shot this picture off to Arkansas Heritage and asked if this was the church, and they quickly verified that it was.

I still don't know much about it other than it's in the Carpenter Gothic style and was built in 1912. It's official listing is still pending. Hopefully, once it makes the list, it will receive some badly needed attention.

Update Oct. 6 - Arkansas Historic Preservation just announced the listing with this description:

St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church at DeValls Bluff in Prairie County, built in 1912 in a vernacular interpretation of the Carpenter Gothic style of architecture. “The simple one-room structure with simple Gothic Revival elements on Sycamore Street speaks of a part of DeValls Bluff history now twenty-three years gone,” the National Register nomination says. “The Catholic church served a community, albeit small, of farmers and businessmen who played integral parts of the history of DeValls Bluff and Prairie County, Arkansas. With the history of this small building is the history of European immigrants who helped build railroads, clear forests, and farm the fields that were and are firmly part of the state’s landscape.”

More info: here

Update May 23, 2011 -
The state's Historic Preservation Alliance has added St. Elizabeth's to its list of Arkansas’s Most Endangered Historic Places. The sites on the list reflect threats such as deterioration, neglect, insufficient funds, insensitive public policy and inappropriate development. The following additional information was presented regarding this church:

Following the death of the last remaining parishioner, St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church was abandoned by the Church in 1986 and was unused by the community. In 1992, Mary Sharp purchased the structure and has actively sought to preserve it as an important piece of DeValls Bluff history. The building is in need of structural work and maintenance and is in danger due to lack of funds and lack of knowledge of its existence by many. In addition, St. Elizabeth’s Church sustained wind and water damage during the storms that swept across the South in late April 2011.


Steph said...

What a cute little church.
What will they make out of it once it's listed? Will it still be used as a church?

Jay said...

From what I understand, a building that gets placed on the NRHP must be restored to federal standards. Those standards vary due to the condition of the building. In this case, the church has deteriorated so much that rehabilitation is the main concern. Listing it makes federal and possibly state funds available to the parties responsible for its rehab. The intended use of the building is of secondary nature, so long as the external appearance remains true to the original plan.

I'm sure the use of the building as a church will be encouraged, but isn't necessary. It's use as a Catholic church is doubtful, as DeValls Bluff, a town once important due to its proximity to the White River, has significantly decreased in population over the years and there are probably not enough Catholic families left to make up a congregation.

Steph said...

Thanks for answering my question!