If walls could talk, St. John’s Lutheran Church at the corner of Blackwater Ave and 3rd Street in Davis, WV would have stories to tell! As the congregation of St. John’s Lutheran Church prepares to begin its 128th year on February 23rd, we ask local families and communities to share any photographs and stories about historical events, activities, or people that have used the building. Unfortunately, this “Big Green Church” needs a new foundation, as is the situation with many original structures in the Town of Davis subjected to over 100 years of holding up a building while in wet, poorly drained soils, and its stewards are fundraising and reaching out in support of that ongoing effort.
Both the Town and this church were built on the wet banks of the upper Blackwater River as a response to the influx of business and workers for the lumber boom of the late 19th century; and both benefitted from the bounties of the area. On July 30, 1893 the cornerstone of the church building was placed and the building was dedicated on September 16, 1894. Reflecting the optimism of the day, St. John’s Lutheran Church’s building was constructed as a dramatic structure, including 40 to 50 footlong exposed “A-Frame” roof trusses, elaborate stained-glass windows, and an 80-foot bell tower. The roof trusses were built from local virgin spruce lumber which was sawed at the Beaver Creek Lumber Company in Davis and assembled on-site under the supervision of an experienced shipbuilder to insure they would withstand the wintery blasts on the mountaintop.
St. John’s church-building is beautiful, with exposed trusses, stained-glass windows and much of the interior still being very much the same as when it was constructed. Some parts of the church have been changed to protect it from the elements (the original dark green wooden German lap siding has been replaced with dark green vinyl siding) or to improve safety (the original kerosene chandeliers were replaced by gas lights with mantels and ultimately with electric lights).
Happily (and not surprisingly) the structure’s wooden framework, the building of which was overseen by the lumber barons of the day, is still quite sound according to a recently completed structural engineering study. Unfortunately, there was less expertise with the foundation’s stone work done on wet ground, so the foundation is failing and needs major repair work. Overwhelmingly, the congregation voted to raise the money to repair the foundation, repairs that will cost around $300,000. Around 1/3 has been secured so far, and the plan a year of activities to save the building.
Share your stories and photos to help St. John’s Lutheran Church tell the story of this beautiful space in support of its fundraising year. The goal in stewarding this historical structure is to keep it a sound and usable community space for the years to come. If you have information or photos to share, would like more information about the church visit the Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/stjohnsdavis/, or call the church at 304-259-5635 and leave a message. A church member will get back to you shortly.