A historical photo of Congregational/Episcopal Church.

Museum of Northwest Colorado/courtesy

A historical photo of Congregational/Episcopal Church.

Historic church changes with time

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— A group of 30 people had signed a charter to begin the Congregational Church in the spring of 1900.

The goal was that there should be a church where anyone, of whatever persuasion, might worship.

Within a year, ground was broken for a building at the northwest corner of Victory Way and Tucker Street. The four lots cost the new congregation $90, and a contract for construction of the building was signed with William Taylor for a total of $2,305. Taylor was instrumental in much of the building going on in Craig, and he completed this task promptly.

The new church was dedicated on May 25, 1902, and for the next half century, it was a gathering place for worship and social events. The beautifully shaped ceiling beams sheltered the congregation during worship, marriages and funerals, and the congregation grew quickly.

In 1904, a steeple was added to the original building and a beautiful cast bell was hung at the top to call worshippers to services. Nearly 20 years later, a large dining room and kitchen were added to the north side of the building. This annex was torn down in 1942 and replaced with a new addition that included classrooms, a new kitchen and an auditorium. The Witte Hall addition was added in 2002.

It was a big event in 1960 for Craig in more ways than one. Adults and children alike lined the streets to watch a church on the move. One of Craig's earliest landmarks was making its way to a new home and a new career.

More than a few people were concerned about the structural integrity of the old building as it creaked on the mover's rigging. They wondered if it would survive the trip. Power and phone lines crossing city streets required a route that seemed to take the building on a tour of the town that it had served for so many years.

The church moved a block west to Russell and then traveled north, "then back east to Tucker, then north on Tucker to Ninth, then west on Ninth to Yampa, then north to Tenth. It was taken up the hill on tenth to School, then north on School to Sand Rocks Drive, then west to Ranney, and south on Ranney to Ninth, then west to Green St., then south to a vacant lot between Sixth and Seventh streets," (Empire-Courier February 4, 1960)

The steeple, bell and annex had been removed before the move, so it was only the original church building that made the trip through Craig to its new location. Ironically, it ended up across the street from the new Congregational Church that first saw service in August 1959. The four lots at Victory and Tucker that had been purchased for $90, were sold to Moffat County State Bank for $40,300. The new land chosen by the congregation was described as "2.2 acres west of Craig." Today that land is in the middle of a residential area. The bell was moved to the new building as were many of the furnishings.

Bill and Dorothy Witte came to Craig in 1948 to open a store. The couple soon learned that there was no Episcopal Church in Craig, but did learn that there were several families who were Episcopalians. Five families joined together to organize services and committed themselves to developing a viable congregation in Craig.

The group watched nervously as the old building creaked its way through the streets of Craig. Would it hold up? Would it be damaged by the upheaval?

The old church sold for $500, the land it was to sit on for another $500, and the moving cost was $500. The young congregation watched their investment move through the streets and come to rest on temporary pilings until a basement and foundation were completed.

The church had one more short move to make onto its new foundation, where it settled in as though it had been built there. With several months of volunteer powered remodeling, the church was ready to make the transition from a Congregational church to an Episcopalian sanctuary.

The old building did make the move intact. The skilled carpentry of the turn of the century proved itself, and the new congregation joyfully dedicated the building to use on Aug. 19, 1962, with the name St. Mark's Episcopal Church.

The building has kept up with the times for the past 46 years with the addition of an entry that reflects the graceful shape of the sturdy roof beams in the sanctuary. The early collection of chairs gave way to pews that wrap around the room.

In 1983, the congregation installed six stained glass windows created by Craig resident Laura Tyler. The windows tell the story of the Bible in dramatic shapes and colors.

Although the congregation is not the largest in Craig, its members have been responsible for starting several programs that have had long-term impact on the entire community.

The Interfaith Food Bank began with the purchase of a large upright freezer and the work of dedicated volunteers. Abused and Battered Humans is another service that has its roots in St. Mark's. A preschool in the church basement makes the old building echo with the laughs of young voices and seems to rejuvenate the old walls.

In its latest step forward, the old church received a joyous gift of light when the traditional crucifix that hung behind the altar was replaced at Easter in 1998 with a brilliant Celtic cross that emphasizes the resurrection and new life in Christ. The newest addition was designed and built by church member Terri Robertson. The window was dedicated during a special service held July 19, 1998.

The old church is probably the largest recycling project that Craig has seen and stands today as a link from early Craig settlers into the next millennium.

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