There have been a few changes and updates to the building since its construction! All were sympathetic to original features and architecture, and of great benefit to the preservation and enjoyment of the building. The following history is excerpted from four sources: “Standing on Holy Ground for 100 Years”, the “Augustana and Zion Lutheran Churches Directory” circa 1990s, “A Brief History of Dewings Siding”, and an untitled hand-written document. Some interesting tidbits and nifty old photos follow, so grab a cuppa and settle in.
Built in 1902, Dewings Center started as a Lutheran church building. The original congregation, “The Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Emanuel Church” was founded in 1896, and met twice a month on Sunday afternoons in LeRoy Township at Randolph School, so named for the original property owner, in a postal code area known as “Dewings Siding”.
In 1898, the congregation purchased 1/4 acres for $10, and another 3/4 acres for $15 in 1899, in Dewings Siding from Andrew Craig, “near the present-day intersection of Mackinaw Trail and Luther Rd/14 Mile Rd”. Construction of the new building, which would become Dewings Center, started in the summer of 1901 and completed in December of 1902, for just under $2000. The first service was held on December 21, 1902 and the congregation sat on wooden planks since there were not yet any pews; A plaque on the house at that location marks the site.
A personal hand-written historical account reads:
“Church was 50 ft long and 28 ft wide, and an addition on back, 20 ft long 18 ft wide, tower 65 ft high.”
One of the most striking features of Dewings Center is its ten stained glass windows. These were all crafted and installed during the original building construction in 1902, at a cost of $25 each. Four of the stained glass windows were donated by John Holmgren, Peter Carlson, John Peterson and Charles Carlson, with the remaining six windows donated by the congregation. All of the large stained glass windows in Dewings Center are these original windows.
A pipe organ was built and installed in the balcony in 1903
by a Mr. England from Big Rapids, and a hymnal board made by Luis Olson, “so arranged that a person seated at the pipe organ in the gallery could by wire arrangement, indicate the number of the song to be sung.”
Can you say, “contraption”, kids?
In 1917, a building on Gilbert Street in the village of LeRoy, previously owned by a German Lutheran congregation, was purchased as an additional location for better accessibility of congregants living in the Village. In 1942, the two congregations merged and reorganized into Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church with services being held at the Village location. The building (future Dewings Center) in Dewings Siding was retained, but vacated.
1947 was perhaps the biggest year since the original construction. With a larger building needed, the building in Dewings Siding was moved, by truck and great resolute, to its present location on Albert Street in the Village. The lot for the new site was donated by Edward and Mildred Larson, who lived next door. The large oil painting titled “The Agony” was gifted to Zion Lutheran of LeRoy by Zion Lutheran of Reed City in celebration of the building’s move, refurbishment, and rededication. The old German Lutheran church brick building was sold to the Nazarene church, and torn down some years later.
Circa 1947 – The building shortly after being moved to its current location on Albert Street in the Village.
In 1954, the basement space was renovated into a parish hall and full-service kitchen with donations in memory of Hanna Carlson from the Carlson foundation, for the sum of $1,575.
Carlson Hall is named in her honor.
The 1970s saw the construction of a much larger foyer, or narthex, that included an ADA accessible ramp. The original stained glass windows and name plate were incorporated into the new structure. A sound system was installed in the sanctuary, and new wall coverings were put up in Carlson Hall. With the 1980s came new ceiling fans and lights with labor donated by Nelson Electric of LeRoy, wallpaper in the sanctuary, blinds in the basement, much appreciated pew cushions, and the lighted stained glass window just below the belfry, crafted by Lynn Nelson. In the 1990’s a new and much smaller Allen Organ was installed with a memorial gift in honor of Edward and Mildred Larson (the donators of the building lot), and an ADA accessible ramp entrance to Carlson Hall was constructed by congregation members. With the removal of the old pipe organ, which was donated, the balcony was repurposed for use by the choir.
In the Centennial year of the building “The Agony” oil painting was cleaned, repaired and re-varnished by a Detroit conservation studio. Also in this year the congregation added “Emanuel” to their name, becoming “Zion-Emanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church” in honor and remembrance of the original congregation, “The Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Emanuel Church“. The centennial was marked by three days of celebration activities, and included the forming of a “Community Revival Time Choir” and concert.
In 2015, the congregations of Zion-Emanuel Evangelical Lutheran of LeRoy and Augustana Lutheran of Tustin merged, with services being held at Augustana. A group of former Zion-Emanuel congregation members came together to work to preserve the historic building, with a goal of serving the greater LeRoy area with an arts and community center.
The same year the group was bequeathed the building and grounds by the Lutheran church. The building was renamed “Dewings Center” in honor of the building’s and congregation’s origins, and to retain historical reference and knowledge of the all but forgotten Dewings Siding.
Dewings Center became official in 2017 when it was incorporated as a non-profit, and thus our current work began. The volunteer staff looks always forward to Dewings Center continuing to serve and support the community, and we hope to see you at one of our community events!
“A Brief History of