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The 140-year-old Lebanon Church in New London will be demolished next month. Members of Peace Lutheran Church, which owns the old church and property, delayed action for six months hoping that a buyer would step forward. There was interest expressed, but no purchase offers were ever made for the building. (Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange)

Time’s up: Historic Lebanon Church in New London will be demolished in June

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NEW LONDON –– Time is up for the 140-year-old Lebanon Church in New London.

Crews began removing asbestos from the abandoned structure on Monday.

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Final demolition of one of the oldest buildings in Kandiyohi County will take place in mid-June.

Last fall, members of Peace Lutheran Church — which owns the old church and property that is located a short distance from Peace on the other side of a cemetery — agreed to delay demolition for six months in hopes someone would come forward to purchase and restore the building.

While there was plenty of interest, including at least three serious lookers who sought advice from engineers and contractors, there were no takers once the financial reality of restoration was realized, said the Rev. Keith Pearson.

“There were no offers,” he said.

Estimates ranged from a minimum of $500,000 to around $1 million to restore “the basic shell,” he said, with predictions that it would take $30,000 to $50,000 a year to operate and maintain it.

“If you need a structure and you have a million dollars, there are a lot of other choices you might make,” said Pearson.

Still, losing the landmark structure won’t be easy for the community or the congregation, he said.

“There’s a lot of people that have a heart for the history, that have some connection to the congregation and that old building. People that were baptized there and buried there,” he said.

“And it is sad to lose that.”

The Lebanon Church’s history began in 1859 when Swedish immigrants began meeting in a log cabin. They later built the white, steepled church on a high hill in New London.

The congregation later merged with Trinity Lutheran Church, which was located on the other side of the Mill Pond in New London and had a congregation that was predominantly Norwegian.

The result of that merger is the current Peace Lutheran Church.

The first time the two congregations worshiped together under one roof was 1974, said Pearson.

The demolition of the old church will take place 40 years after that milestone worship service.

“We’ll do something to memorialize the building and the congregation that it housed,” he said, adding that the 40th anniversary of the joint worship service will be celebrated sometime this summer.

Several items of historic significance to the congregation were previously removed from the church and will either be displayed or used at Peace Lutheran, including the old baptismal font that Peace Lutheran may use at their summertime services at Sibley State Park.

The church will retain ownership of the property for the time being, said Pearson.

“We’ll look forward to what new life springs out of the old,” he said.

It will cost about $50,000 to raze the structure.

“It’s better than we feared,” said Pearson.

The cost includes $13,000 for asbestos removal, which is being completed by Midwest Asbestos Abatement from Montevideo.

Stai Excavating of Spicer will do the final demolition in mid-June, following a public auction of some of the remaining items in the church that is scheduled for 5 p.m. June 9.

Some of the items likely to be auctioned include the stained glass windows, old organ, piano, pews and decorative lighting.

There’s also an old linotype printing press in the basement that was left after the Monongalia Historical Society moved out of the church last year when the structure was damaged by a massive hail storm that shredded the roof.

Two little cabins that sit on either side of the church will also be demolished, unless someone steps forward soon to remove them, said Pearson.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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