Unitarian Officials Break Ground On New Church

Unitarian Church of Los Alamos officials break ground Tuesday at 1738 N. Sage St. where their new church will be constructed. From left, Rick Bolton, Rev. John Cullinan, Galen Gisler, Dawn Venhaus and Dale Arnink. Photo by Leland Lehman/ladailypost.com
 
Members from the congregation and community turn out for Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the new Unitarian Church on Sage Street. Photo by Leland Lehman/ladailypost.com
 
Staff Report
 
The old Unitarian Church at 1738 N. Sage St. has been demolished and a groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday on that site to kickoff construction of a brand new church building.
 
The new building, designed by Mullen|Heller Architecture, is scheduled for completion by March 1, 2016. Mullen|Heller Architecture also designed the new PEEC Nature Center building and the White Rock Visitors Center. Hart Construction submitted the winning bid as the General Contractors for the project, which will have a total cost of $3.45 million. The congregation has raised more than $2.8 million in pledges and fundraising is ongoing.

The new church will retain the beautiful mountain view from the sanctuary, which will be situated in approximately the same location on the lot as it is now. The sanctuary will increase in size from a current capacity of approximately 110 seats to 175. The building will be one-story and fully accessible, and will offer many amenities for outside groups renting space for their activities.

The current building dates to the Manhattan Project, when it was built as one of two temporary dormitories separated by Tulip Street, which no longer exists. Church archives reveal a letter dated February of 1959 from the Zia Corporation regarding the renewal of the congregation’s lease on the building that stated, “Consideration must be given to the fact that this building is a temporary war-time structure of the type being removed from the permanent townsite area as rapidly as possible and that it cannot remain on location indefinitely.”

After purchasing the building, the congregation made extensive renovations, including removing part of the second floor to create the sanctuary and adding the solarium at the main entrance. The size and condition of the aging structure has been at issue for several decades, and the congregation voted in 2008 to actively pursue building a new church.

Some artifacts from the building will be salvaged by the Los Alamos Historical Society for inclusion in their archives, and other materials will be donated to the Habitat ReStore.

During construction, the congregation is holding all operations at their temporary headquarters in Suite 101 of the TRK Building at 195 East Road, across from the Los Alamos County Animal Shelter.

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