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The birthplace of First Congregational Church was in an abandoned enlisted men's barracks at Fort Dakota, a frontier outpost which closed in 1869. Before the buildings at the fort were razed, many newcomers to Dakota Territory lived in the barracks temporarily. In 1870 an adult Sunday School was organized there, with leadership from Rev. J.A. Palmer of the American Home Missionary Society. The First Congregational Church was founded in the old barracks in 1872. Hattie C. Phillips and others from the Sunday School were charter members.
On July 28, 1872 the first sermon was preached to the new church by Rev. J.E. Roy of the Missionary Society. The pews were simple wo
oden benches, the floors were dirt and the pulpit was a wooden box covered with drapes.
In November of 1873 the little congregation moved to Allen Hall, which was located at the corner of Eighth Street and Phillips Avenue. The congregation enjoyed the comfort of chairs and "many other proper conveniences". A Sunday School was organized for the children with Edwin A Sherman as Superintendent.
In 1879 the congregation resolved to "arise and build", and by September the members moved into a newly completed church building on Dakota Avenue, not far from the site of the present day church. It was a simple, brown clapboard building that the members lovingly referred to as "God's Barn". This building served the needs of the congregation for 30 years.
In 1905 the Rev. Frank Fox became the leader of a drive for a new church building. Badges were sold on the streets of Sioux Falls, coins were collected and members donated money and land. The Ladies Aid Society raised money by operating the city's streetcars for one day. An impressive new building, built with locally quarried Sioux quartzite, was dedicated on April 14, 1909.
Over a century has passed since the laying of the cornerstone of the building in which First Congregational Church now worships. On the 125th anniversary of the Congregation in 1997, the west side addition was dedicated, and the new memorial hall was named after Rev. Arlan Fick who led the congregation through its plans for expansion and renovation.
Over the past decade, Fick Memorial Hall has become a multi-purpose center. It has provided space for weddings, church services, concerts, receptions, social events and church activities. In 2003 it was refurbished with new furnishings in memory of Emily Staathaug. The next year the furnishings were further enhanced by the gift of a baby grand piano in memory of Dottie Tuttle. This piano is now being used in the newly remodeled sanctuary.
In 2006, members of the congregation voted at the annual meeting to proceed with the “Building On Faith” Campaign. Many concerns were heard and discussed together. The Building Committee spent several months re-examining the building and renovation plans with input from other members. They determined the best plan was to move forward to renovate the sanctuary, complete the organ, renovate the education wing, fellowship hall, corridors, first floor bathrooms, and to give a tithe of 10% to the Abundant blessings Capital Campaign of the South Dakota Conference. The congregation approved a capital campaign for approximately $2 million, and over half of that was raised in the first few months. The church was re-roofed and the project was on its way!
In January 2007 we proceeded from the sanctuary to “God’s Basement”, where Sunday services were held until August 12th. The dining area had been effectively set up for the weekly worship services. A beautiful wooden altar, designed and built by member Allen Hamberger, became the worship center. The altar will be the permanent one at Camp KROF now.
During that period the organ was removed and the sanctuary completely gutted. It was redesigned and built under the leadership of members Diane deKoeyer and Dick Dempster of Architecture Incorporated, and the workmanship of Sioux Falls Construction. The original stenciling over the archway in the chancel, which had been concealed since the 1930s, was re-applied by several members. Fellow members also sanded and refinished the floors.
A large wooden cross was hung in the center of the chancel. It was made possible by the gifts and craftsmanship of members Tom and Sue Roust, Bob Natz and Allen Hamberger. The organ was re-installed in October 2007 and has become the “crowning glory” of our beautiful sanctuary!