Spotlight: New life for old church
The First Baptist Church in Nesquehoning, which closed its doors in 2016, is now the home of the Nesquehoning Historical Society.
A few old-fashioned light bulbs and pictures from the past sit in one of two cases that the Nesquehoning Historical Society has installed so far. The group will be transforming part of the church into an area filled with memorabilia on the history of the town.
Bill Gardiner, left, a member of the Nesquehoning Historical Society; and Ruth Ansbach of the First Baptist Church, look at some items in the cases near the entrance of the building.
The hymnal board now shows the second life of the First Baptist Church in Nesquehoning.
The congregation of the First Baptist Church left everything to the Nesquehoning Historical Society when members donated the building to the organization earlier this year.
The walls of the sanctuary are alive in color through walls of stained glass windows that were restored over the past two decades.
The sanctuary of the new Nesquehoning Historical Society home will provide space for programs and community events once the building is open to the public. AMY MILLER/TIMES NEWS
It’s true what they say, when one door closes, another one opens.
For the Nesquehoning Historical Society, that door was the entrance to the former First Baptist Church at 157 W. Railroad St., which closed its doors in January 2016 after the pastor left and only three families remained in the congregation.
“We didn’t really have enough in our congregation anymore to take it forward,” said Ruth Ansbach of the First Baptist Church. “We were working with a lawyer to close the church when the people from the historical society asked us about it.”
The families that remained — Charles and Patricia Knipper, the Ansbachs and the Nalesniks — felt that the organization was a fitting recipient for their spiritual home, so in March 2018, the members turned over the keys to both a fully furnished church and parsonage as a donation to the society.
“It means everything,” said Lois Corby Kuba, president of the Nesquehoning Historical Society, who added that she grew up in this church and had deep roots here, pointing to two stained glass windows that are adorned with her great-grandparents’ names. “To see it sold and have the windows taken out, it would have been horrible. We scoured the town for years looking for a home, but there wasn’t anything of what we were looking for.
“It’s a dream come true,” she said. “We used to sit at our meetings, collecting things and different displays, but we had no home. Now we have a home.”
“It’s a true blessing,” added Grace Gilkeson of the historical society.
Ken Ansbach, a deacon at the parish, said the new future of the church was a sigh of relief for the congregants, who feared that someone would purchase the building, strip it of its valuables and let it sit and deteriorate like many other buildings in the region.
“We want to keep the building the way it is,” Kuba said.
A tribute to the past
The new historical society building is a tribute to generations of men and women who called both Nesquehoning as well as the First Baptist Church home, with its large sanctuary, left in the condition it has always been; walls of beautifully stained glass windows that had been lovingly restored by the families over the last two decades; and a fully stocked social hall ready to welcome guests.
In the back of the building, display cases will soon tell the story of Nesquehoning through memorabilia that has been collected over the years, as well as pictures hung on the walls.
But there are a lot of to-dos left on the group’s checklist to get the building ready for the public, including making it handicapped accessible.
Kuba said that members met with representatives from other historical societies around the area to see what they should do to make this project a success.
Once the transformation is complete, the historical society’s new home, in addition to displaying the history of the town, will also be available for nondenominational weddings, as well as other community-oriented programs.
“The history in this building is parallel to the history of the town,” Gilkeson said. “This is such a treasure to begin with that we’re hopefully going to preserve for years to come.”
Much work to be done
The society members hope to open their doors to the public sometime this fall, and donations, both monetary and historical items, to help make it a reality are being accepted.
Monetary donations can be made payable to the Nesquehoning Historical Society, which is a nonprofit organization, and mailed to 157 W. Railroad St., Nesquehoning, PA 18240.
Until then, the group will hold monthly meetings at the church. Meetings are held at 6 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month.
The public is welcome and new members can join anytime.
“We want to preserve the wonderful history of Nesquehoning because those who went ahead of us did a wonderful job establishing a beautiful little town, and we would like to be able to show artifacts of what fine people did for this town,” Gilkeson said.
For more information on the Nesquehoning Historical Society, contact any of its members or check out the group’s Facebook page, Nesquehoning Historical Society.