Danish Church named to Nat'l Register of Historic Places

Friday, February 24, 2012

The little Danish Lutheran Church located at 113 West 4th St. in Alta has been accepted for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places by the State National Register Nominations Review Committee. the National Register is the federal government's official list of historic properties worthy of preservation. Listing in the National Register provides recognition and assists in preserving the heritage of the nation.

The church has been without a congregation for many years; it is currently owned by Jackie (Castle) Anderson, being passed down from her mother's estate (Anna Mae Castle) who purchased the church and land it stood on from her her parent's estate in 1988. Anderson lives out of state.

For some time there was talk that the "eye sore" should be removed and some suggested moving the building to the Hanover historical site.

The latter idea, said, Martha Nielsen, who attended the church with her family when she was growing up, never appealed to her. A Danish church, she feels, does not belong in the German community.

Still, it may be an idea that will be discussed again - with the Hanover Festival each year, the church could be enjoyed and visited by many.

Another suggestion has been to restore the building - monies may now be easier to receive since it has received the state's recognition - and make it into a wedding chapel, serving as an attraction for many.

The ball is in the owner's court at this point.

The Danish Lutheran Church Society was formed in Alta on Feb. 22, 1880, composed of 42 persons. In 1887 the church was erected. The 24 x 36 structure cost $1,000 to build. It has remained in the same spot for all these years.

Not many people remain that have distinct memories of the church; most were quite young when they attended.

Nielsen recalled the simple structure. The church was lit with antique kerosene lamps that hung on the windows.

While there no longer is an altar in the church, there definitely was one. Nielsen's youngest sister, Betty O'Bannon, spoke about it in an article in the Storm Lake Pilot Tribune a decade ago.

"There was a railing all the way across and a place for kneeling for communion. It was a really pretty altar," she said.

Nielsen also recalled the organ that once provided the music in the church,

While the structure was only one room, Sunday school classes were held in the sanctuary before or after worship services.

There were, she believes, only six pews on each side of the church and an old pot belly stove warmed the building on cold winter days.

Even way back then, there was sharing of ministers between churches. Nielsen has memories of Rev. Haakon Jorgensen, who also served at Nain Lutheran Church in Newell. He came to Alta only once a month; members took part in services in other churches throughout the other three weeks.

Nielsen was baptized at the church (as were her son and daughter many years later) but took confirmation classes at Nain. Transportation was by train - she would board the 8 a.m. train and return on the 2 p.m. train.

Clara Samuelson also has memories of the church and is still intrigued by the tin ceiling that was in the building.

Both Samuelson and Nielsen commend Marge Neulieb for being consistent in working to get the church on the National Registry.

Samuelson commented she would like to see the church restored to its finest.

"I hope they are productive but it will take the community to get behind it and probably require fundraising.

Being listed on the National Register provides the following benefits:

* consideration in the planning for federal, federally licensed and federally assisted projects

* eligibility for federal tax benefits

* qualification for federal and state grants for historic preservation when funds are available

* eligibility for state tax credits for rehabilitation