Design Award Entries

Cane Hill Presbyterian Church

The Historic Presbyterian Church of Cane Hill was built in 1891 and is a prominent landmark in the town of Cane Hill. It is the last remaining house of worship that is still functioning as such today in the town. In an ongoing effort to save the historic structures in Cane Hill, WER lead a full historic preservation and restoration of the church–breathing new life into this special site.

Project Statement

The WER team began working in the town of Cane Hill in 2013 and has since fallen in love with the charm and historic structures. Cane Hill was founded in 1827 and has 16 National Register historic sites / structures in the town. The Cane Hill Presbyterian Church is the most recent project our team has worked on.

The Historic United Presbyterian Church of Cane Hill was built in 1891. It is a prominent landmark in the town of Cane Hill and is the last remaining house of worship that is still functioning as such today. It is an example of the Gothic Revival Vernacular style and constructed of native stone and locally sourced lumber. The church is an important landmark along the main road in town and is a reflection of the town’s early Cumberland Presbyterian roots. The first Cumberland Presbyterian congregation was founded here in 1828 and its members were crucial to the growth and development of Cane Hill. Cumberland Presbyterians were also responsible for establishing the Cane Hill School, a school to train young Presbyterian ministers and which later became Cane Hill College, one of the oldest institutes of higher learning in the state.

The church has been in active use since its founding and so has remained in fair condition. However later modifications to the church such as asphalt shingle roofing and later era finishes had changed the appearance. Elements such as the bell tower and the stone foundations were also in desperate need of repair to prevent structural failure. The stone masonry was cleaned and the joints were extensively tuckpointed with a lime mortar that matched the color and style of the existing joints. The asphalt shingle roof was removed and a wood shingle roof was installed. The brick chimney was repaired and new copper finial, designed by WER, was custom made based off historic photographs of the church. A paint analysis study revealed the original colors of the exterior trim, which were recreated based off photographs depicting the trim patterns. The non-historic front doors were removed and replaced with new wood doors that match the original design, replicated from historic photographs. A small modern connector between the church and a non-historic fellowship hall structure at the rear, was removed and the back of the church was restored. The connector opening at the rear wall was originally a window location. The opening provided a necessary egress out of the back of the church and was modified to accommodate a new wood door and frame that match the other wood framed doors in the building. The original Gothic arch transom was discovered encased in the wall above the opening and was fully restored. The transom is the only remaining remnant of the original wood windows, which were all replaced decades later with stained glass memorial windows.

The interior of the church was fully restored to its original appearance. The wood flooring in the sanctuary and Narthex was removed and salvaged to repair the damaged floor joists and to install new ductwork in the crawl space below. The original flooring was then reinstalled and refinished. The wood flooring in the Sunday School room, which was discovered to have been originally painted, was also refinished to match the original color. The wood paneling and trim were also refinished as was the alternating pattern wood paneling at the ceilings in the sanctuary and the Sunday School room. The door leading from the back of the sanctuary to the exterior still had its original grained finish and it was discovered that the remaining interior wood doors were also grained previously however had since been painted over. The paint was stripped from these doors and the original grained finish was replicated, along with new hinges, porcelain knobs and brass backplates that matched the original hardware. Two large sliding overhead panels between the sanctuary and the Sunday School room were restored and the pulley systems were repaired so they could be operational again. The platform at the apse was returned to its original configuration and the original lectern, made specifically for the church in 1894 from locally sourced black walnut trees, was restored and reinstalled along with the church pews. New custom-made brass chandeliers, typical of the oil burning fixtures common in other churches during this era were designed by WER, fabricated by St. Louis Antique Lighting, and installed in the sanctuary and Sunday School room. Finally, a new HVAC system was installed that introduced fresh air into the building from a hidden soffit vent at the exterior and distributed air though the church through wood floor vents to meet current code requirements.

Today, the church serves as a historic venue space for the Historic Cane Hill Foundation and continues to serve its Cane Hill Presbyterian congregation, as it has for over a century.

AIA Arkansas