Preservation as Community-Building

Historic buildings are more than just piles of sticks and bricks. Over time, buildings become a part of our community narrative: the stories we create through our daily lives all have place. The spaces that enclose memorable events become inseparable from the events that happen within them and the people that pass through their doors. This effect is all the more profound when the buildings themselves are inspirational.

Despite the proliferation of crappy buildings created in the past 50 years, I think most people actually recognize this phenomenon to some degree. We do continue to recognize beauty in fine craftsmanship, thoughtful design, and artful space.

Des Moines Rehabbers Club meeting at Trinity ChurchDes Moines Rehabbers Club meeting at Trinity ChurchA perfect example of this is Trinity United Methodist Church in Des Moines' River Bend neighborhood. Trinity Church has embarked on a fabulous and difficult journey to restore their sanctuary and update the rest of the building to serve the congregation and the community for another 100 years.

Trinity Church has become more than just a building to house a congregation, though that is certainly a contributing factor. Through the development of a variety of service programs, the organization has evolved into a true pillar of support to the Des Moines community: breakfast and dinner are provided to hundreds of people daily in the basement; fifty children take part in before- and after-school care programs; teens and community members can use the computer labs to study; the doors are open from early morning to evening for anyone who needs a place to be. The building itself represents stability in a neighborhood that needs more constants.

With not a whole lot of internal capacity for funding the restoration project, Trinity Church has initiated an ambitious capital drive (with a lot left to go). Some of the work is being done with volunteer labor.

Trinity Church SanctuaryTrinity Church SanctuaryThey were gracious enough to host the January Des Moines Rehabbers Club meeting and show us the restoration work firsthand.

Trinity Church represents a perfect confluence of preservation and community. With such a strong base of support from a broad cross-section of they have been able to pull in expertise, funding, and labor to accomplish amazing preservation work (note, however, that there is still a lot left to raise and accomplish). People recognize the value the organization provides to the larger community and with it the value of the building - above and beyond the bricks and mortar. Heck, even I spent a Saturday volunteering at a plaster repair work day!

More photos of the Trinity Church restoration project:


Wow I was blown away by what you wrote. Thanks so very much for your involvement in our world. We are truly blessed.

janelle mueller | Jan 10th, 2011 at 11:46 am

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