Congregational Church in Detroit Lakes celebrates 150 years with outdoor service on Aug. 21

One of the first churches in Detroit Lakes, Congregational United Church of Christ will celebrate its 150th birthday on Sunday with an outdoor service at the original church location, off Washington Avenue in G.A.R. Park. Service will begin at 10 a.m. with refreshments to be served afterward. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs to the event.

The Congregational Church and parsonage were first located on Washington Avenue in Detroit Lakes, across from the former Washington School. The church was completed May 17, 1873.
Contributed / Becker County Historical Society

DETROIT LAKES — To celebrate 150 years, Congregational United Church of Christ in Detroit Lakes will be holding an outdoor service at the church's original location off Washington Avenue on Aug. 21.

The service will be held at G.A.R. Park at: 317 Washington Avenue, and begin at 10 a.m. Refreshments will be served following the service. Anyone wishing to attend should bring their own chairs to the event. In case of rain, the service will move to the current church's location on Lake Avenue, across the street from the Becker County Courthouse.

The church was officially organized on Aug. 11, 1872 with the first church building being completed the following year, according to church historical records. The Congregational Church would eventually move across the street from the Becker County Courthouse on Lake Avenue in 1893. The cost of the building in 1893 was $3,600 (about $118,000 in today's dollars) and it was paid in full upon construction being completed, said Kay Hartness, a church historian.

Hartness said she's been a church member since 1958 and still remembers the 100th birthday for the church that took place in 1972.

"Everybody in town dressed up," said Hartness. "Our minister dressed up, our organist, we had the same organist for 43 years. She played every Sunday morning, and every Saturday night she played at the Eagles Club."


That organist, Gladys Holt, she said, was a "wonder" and a "sweetheart."

The current Congregational Church was built at the corner of Lake Avenue and Holmes Street in 1893.
Tribune File Photo

The church also served as a makeshift library for Detroit Lakes from 1908 to 1912 until the city's Carnegie library was completed, she said. During World War II, the annex of the church was used by the Red Cross to store surplus food awaiting distribution. The church was even visited by renowned comedian Bob Hope in 1939, according to church records.

When thinking about the church's origins, Hartness said: "There was no sidewalk. There was no street. And across the street was the old Washington School, later, because the school wasn't there that soon either. No electricity. No running water. That's what it was."

Hartness said their congregation fluctuates around 100 members, but they are always looking for new people to join their church. The church also tries to organize community outings for the kids, like bowling nights and other adventures around the region.

Lead Multimedia Reporter for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus.
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