The charming former church building sitting at the corner of Lane and Fourth Streets in Yreka is one of the most iconic buildings in town! This wonderful landmark sits on the corner just across from the Siskiyou County Courthouse Square.
In July of 1876 the first Episcopal congregation met at the original courthouse to form and held the name as St. Paul’s Mission. However, in less than a month the Church of St. Laurence was incorporated to serve the community. Within same month (July) of 1876 the lot at the corner of Fourth and Lane was purchased for $200 for the purpose of building a church. This lot was the former site of the old Metropolitan Hotel which is believed to have burned in the 1871 devastating fire that hit Yreka. Within a couple of months the parishioners instituted a plan for the building and the original plans were suggested for a brick structure. However it was in 1880 when the building we see today was built. Reports from historical papers indicate that building began on the 15th of May, 1880. The first church services were held in the church on January 30, 1881. The original price tag of the building and furnishings for the church was $3,100. A marine architect constructed the church and the roof is supported by what looks like an upside down sailing ship hull under the outside roof line and shingles. The roof is made of 2 x 10 tongue and groove planks and is carried on seven arches to which equivalent rafters are fastened to form the peak. The bracing of the rafters on the arches is much the same as that used when bracing the hull of an 1850 sailing ship. The heavy work of the structure is bound together with wooden pegs. This building was definitely made to last, the exterior of the roof originally had a “striped” design (similar to what we see today) in the shingles and these original shingles served the church for 67 years and were made of sugar pine. The first time the church building was “re-roofed” was in 1947. The walls of the building are constructed of boards and batten, and the walls are also made of 2 by 10 tongue and groove pine. In 1881 the windows were covered with fancy oiled paper, which was reported to have looked even “better” and more “ornamental” than stained glass.
In 1885 St. Laurence was renamed St. Mark’s and consecrated in June of that year. The church was “out of debt” and paid for, and this was the cause for celebration and change. The next year a new bell was hung at St. Mark’s and this original bell weighed 350 pounds. Unfortunately in 1900 the bell at St. Mark’s fell and had to be replaced. In 1915 St. Mark’s exchanged their bell for a heavier bell that hung at St. Barnabas in Dunsmuir. This bell is still hanging in the bell tower today.
On January 25, 1962 it was the annual church dinner and business meeting…but at 10:00 a.m. fire was discovered when smoke began billowing through the roof. It had been zero and sub-zero weather and one of the oil stoves had been left burning on low to keep pipes from freezing. Following this devastating fire the insurance company called the building a total loss. In the end the parishioners decided they would salvage all they could and rebuild the church. It was the interior that was the total loss and was replaced, but the exterior survived. Today the interior is the replacement interior that was created, but the exterior is the same as it was in 1880.
On August 20, 2010 it was with great sadness the congregation voted to close the long lived St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, a number of reasons were considered in this difficult decision including the economy, lack of interest, and an ageing population. It was on January 1, 2011 that St. Mark’s Episcopal Church closed their doors and ended a legacy of service to Yreka. But it wasn’t the end of life for this beautiful little building…
In June of 2011 title of the property including the church building, the patio area, the brick block building in the back, and the former Victorian rectory that sits at the side was transferred to the Yreka (Historic) Preservation Corporation. It is the goal of Yreka Preservation to utilize the buildings in positive ways for the community and preserve the building to the best of their ability.
Today Preservation Square provides a venue for a wide variety of opportunities; the building has been used for weddings, social events, meetings, musical events, parties, lectures, films, etc. The building is offered for rent to the community at low cost and the funds raised go toward maintaining the property. The building is available to tour with prior arrangements with Yreka Preservation.
Copyright: Claudia East, 2008.