Restoration turns back time at Holbrook’s first church

The Tribune-News archives The Methodist church, or Community Church as it was called, was built in 1913 to serve the families that came to Holbrook to carve out a life in the rough and rowdy West.

By Linda Kor

Holbrook’s oldest church is being restored to its former beauty, thanks to the hard work of volunteers and funds provided through church members.

Jimmy Nelson is the pastor of the United Methodist Church on Arizona Street, and believes that preserving the history of the building is important and the work also provides a place of worship that has additional meaning to his parishioners. With donations spent and work still needing to be done, Nelson hopes that others will see the importance as well and contribute to the endeavor.

Building a church in Holbrook in 1913 was a challenging endeavor, but it signaled a change in the growing community. At the time Holbrook was known as the town “too tough for women and churches,” and this was supported by the fact that it was the only county seat in the U.S. without a church.

Churches then, as they are today, are significant contributors to a community’s well being and act as the social glue for residents who may have no other ties. But this wasn’t a concern for the cowboys, cattle rustlers and outlaws who favored the town and frequented the local bars, where drunken altercations often led to fist fights and even shootouts.

As businesses developed and professionals like attorney Sidney Sapp brought their families to live in Holbrook, these new residents wanted to have a greater sense of community. When Sapp’s wife expressed a desire to attend church, he took it upon himself to collect donations and managed to raise $1,350 in 1912, enough to build what was known as the Community Church.

Over the years additions were made to the building. One was in 1935 when a new sanctuary was built and in the 1960s an education building was added.

But as a small church, funds for restoration are limited to those who choose to donate to the cause. So, in much the same way as when it was originally built, donations were collected to restore the original structure, what is now used as a fellowship hall, to its original design.

Doug Kubik heads the project, working with four volunteers, and the cost of the restoration to date has been approximately $9,000, which included hiring a contractor to stabilize adobe walls and the cost of supplies.

“We pulled up the oak flooring and replaced the underlayment with sturdy-floor, and reinstalled the wall framing that was taken apart in sections, insulated the walls and replaced the old paneling with drywall,” explained the pastor.

The light fixtures were also replaced to match the décor of the era. Nelson said that when the drop ceiling was removed, a beautiful high ceiling was revealed with only a few boards that needed to be tacked back in place. “Then, because the wood had dried and shrank, we filled those cracks with 30-year latex caulking, which took about two and a half months,” he said, adding that 20 gallons of paint finished the work on the ceiling.

The next step in the project is the restoration of the floor. Each of the oak boards has been removed, stripped of varnish and is ready to be put back in place.

The concern now is that funding has been exhausted and there is still work to be done.

“We need to buy paint, and install new moldings and baseboards, and install new jambs.  We may or may not replace one of the doors, we’ll see if we can fix it, and we have to manufacture some ceiling wood where a heating duct was at one time,” said Pastor Nelson, who estimates that an additional $3,000 will be needed to complete the work.

As generous as the parishioners have been with their money and their time, Pastor Nelson is now reaching out to the community and elsewhere to those who see the importance of the endeavor.

Once the restoration is complete the public will be invited to an open house to see first hand the work that went into the project.

Those interested in donating to the restoration may contact Pastor Nelson at (928) 524-3753.


Photo by Linda Kor
The restoration of the original building of the United Methodist Church reveals the care and detail that went into its original construction. Doug Kubrik (left) and his brother, Pastor Jimmy Nelson (right), look over the oak boards that were stripped and will now be used to restore the flooring.