South New Hope Church Added to List of Historical Places

The South New Hope Board of Trustees announced that the Wisconsin Historical Society has chosen South New Hope Church to be placed on its list of historic places in Wisconsin. 

The church was built in 1889 in the town of New Hope by Norwegian immigrants, at the corner of what is now known as County Road T and Trout Creek Road.  The old church building has been under restoration since 2012, and significant progress has been made over these past seven years by addressing the many structural problems that had occurred since the congregation disbanded and the church was closed in 1967.

Marc Wolding, a former Board of Trustees member, was the driving force in exploring the idea of having South New Hope Church placed on the Wisconsin Historical Society list. In addition, he secured a grant that would allow the hiring of Gail Kline from Stoughton, Wisconsin to do necessary research, photography, development, and the presentation of an application to the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Ms. Kline made these comments about the South New Hope historic church, “The New Hope Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church is in very good condition and retains a high degree of both interior and exterior integrity.  The church has undergone no substantial alterations outside of the historic period.  The building retains all of its original character-defining features as well as its associated historic resources.  As such the church is a fine representative of the type of rural ecclesiastical architecture common in Wisconsin ‘s rural communities throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Ardie Stoltenberg, a member of the South New Hope Cemetery Association, commented that the old church building was not so much different from many other rural church buildings built during the mid-1800s.  What makes South New Hope stand out over all the others is that it has stayed in its original design with very few alternations, while many other churches were destroyed by fire, altered to keep up with the times, or remodeled into homes or business establishments.

Stoltenberg continued by remarking that Gary and Elaine Anderson of Nelsonville have been the driving force of restoring South New Hope since the beginning by developing a foundation of financial support for the many restoration phases of construction that were completed, establishing a bi-annual newsletter, and organizing many programs ranging from music events to educational & historical lectures that would help gain public recognition for this historic church.

Wendell Nelson, a well-known architectural historian of Portage County, sums up the important aspects of the church by saying this about the old historic church building, “South New Hope Lutheran Church is important both historically and architecturally. Overall, South New Hope Lutheran Church is remarkably whole and unspoiled after 130 years of wind, rain, fire and the other hazards that destroyed so many 19th-century buildings in America.  So it will be a worthy and welcome addition to the Wisconsin Historic Sites list of important state buildings, and will (along with its founders and builders) get the respect it deserves.

The current Board of Trustees plans to increase renovation efforts by seeking out new grants and through donations from the well-established base of donors that has been extremely supportive of the restoration efforts.  Other efforts of the Board will be to increase the board membership of interested individuals and to extend volunteer support in all phases of the operation.

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