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Mark Twain's Church Building Razed

A 1949 addition to a Carson City church that Mark Twain raised money to build has been razed to make way for construction of a new sanctuary.
( [email protected] ) Jan 23, 2007 05:47 PM EST

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - A 1949 addition to a Carson City church that Mark Twain raised money to build has been razed to make way for construction of a new sanctuary.

The 1,200-square-foot addition to the 1864 First Presbyterian Church building was demolished last Thursday by two local companies.

Church officials also had originally planned to tear down the old church, saying it did not meet the needs of a growing congregation and it would be too expensive to restore.

But after a public outcry, church and city officials reached an agreement last year to spare the sanctuary that Twain helped build while he was a newspaper reporter in nearby Virginia City.

Under the agreement, the city will be charged with restoring the original building while the church will be allowed to build the 9,600-square-foot sanctuary next to it.

"I'm glad they worked out a deal to save the old building. It does have historical significance," said Duane Glanzmann, 72, a church member for more than 50 years.

Twain raised $200 - worth $2,200 today - to help complete construction of the church in 1864 by charging admission to his "roast" of Nevada legislators in Carson City. His brother, Orion Clemens, was a church member and secretary of the Nevada Territory at the time.

Historic preservationists have said it would be a mistake to tear down the building at a time when local and state officials are stepping up efforts to promote heritage tourism. They note it's one of only four remaining buildings linked to Twain in Nevada.

Since the 1864 church was last used for services in 2001, more than 400 parishioners have been gathering next door in another building.

"We hope to be in the new sanctuary by Christmas in a perfect world," the Rev. Bruce Kochsmeier told the Nevada Appeal.

Under the agreement, the church will retain ownership of the original building. Church officials have said they could use it for weddings, small religious ceremonies and Sunday School classes.

The addition had housed the choir loft, organ chancel and restrooms.

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