BEATRICE – A Beatrice, Nebraska church is one of six structures newly added to the National Register of Historic Places.  The Centenary United Methodist Church…formerly known as the Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church… among newly listed buildings in Beatrice, Inavale, Lincoln, Ravenna, Weeping Water and York.

History Nebraska officials say the Methodist church represents Late English Gothic Revival church architecture in Nebraska, with its tall turret-topped tower, buttresses, arched art glass windows, belt courses, open truss roof, and arcaded arches.

"It's a great honor to have our building selected. We always thought it was a beautiful building. We've always tried to keep it historically and aesthetically preserved. When you think about when it was built...we were in the middle of a depresssion...and World War One...and they always said a lot of chicken dinners were served out of this church in order to raise money to retire the debt."  Centenary UMC History Committee Chairperson Linda McCall says the building was paid off Christmas Eve of 1947…just 17 years after construction began. Centenary recently has undergone exterior preservation work.

"We had to do work on the tower....the mortar was crumbling, and a couple of the corners had been hit by lightning during storms, and so we had to take that project on."

Over the years, the north entrance to the church has been improved for accessibility. Centenary, McCall says, was one of the first buildings in Beatrice to install a geothermal energy system. The church also installed an elevator that reaches from the basement to the main floor….along with a security system.

"Because there has been some churches that had terrible fires in the state of Nebraska...we wanted to do a project. But we couldn't, from the state fire marshal's standpoint, complete those projects until we put in a fire system. So, we have the heavier doors and we have a sprinkler system in the sanctuary."

Centenary Sanctuary

The church was designed by the architectural firm Dougher, Rich and Woodburn from Des Moines, Iowa, and built by Ernest Rokahr from Lincoln, Nebraska…in 1930.

The layout of the church educational wing is particularly notable for its progressive design with solid walls and doors defining numerous classrooms, instead of incorporating flexible spaces. The doors include collection boxes that opened from both inside and out.

School entrance, on south side of the church

Today, the church has sophisticated sound and video systems to reach those who are unable to come to services. The church congregation today numbers about 600-to-700….with two services each Sunday. At its peak, it’s congregation approached 2,000.  McCall says a celebration event marking the church’s inclusion on the National Register is being planned for April 30th, 1:30 p.m., at the church sanctuary.

Other structures newly named to the National Register of Historic Places include…

The Inavale Community Center in Inavale
The Iowa-Nebraska Light and Power Company Plant in Lincoln
The Bohning Memorial Auditorium in Ravenna
The Agricultural Society Building in Weeping Water….and….
The York Auditorium, in York