- Associated Press - Saturday, June 4, 2016

POST FALLS, Idaho (AP) - Situated in the heart of Post Falls is a special building that has withstood the test of time.

The lingering tintinnabulation of its old church bell can sometimes be heard in the breeze, transporting those who hear it back to the simpler times of a bygone era, the Coeur d’Alene Press reported (https://bit.ly/1ZbcUbr).

And although it is no longer a church, or even two churches, the Jacklin Arts and Cultural Center is a testament to the hardiness of the River City’s founders and the people who united to save its oldest standing building. For about 120 years, that building has played a vital role in the community, as a church, as a community project and now as a thriving center for arts and culture.

With its original architecture and eye-catching bell tower peering out over the city of Post Falls, the JACC serves as a constant reminder of the individuals and families who founded the city and those who help it flourish today.

The “Old Church”

When Post Falls was in its infancy, two churches were erected: the First Methodist Episcopal Church, built in a Gothic-revival style in 1890 at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Post Street, and the Presbyterian Church, a vernacular-style church that was built at the corner of Second Avenue and Henry Street in 1899.

The city’s founder, Frederick Post, was a member of First Methodist, where he managed the choir. His funeral was also held there.

Following World War I, Post Falls could not support having two churches, so it was proposed that they be combined.

“It’s just the idea that people didn’t throw stuff away,” said Post Falls Historical Society secretary and former president Kim Brown.

Using horses and manpower in 1921, the two churches were joined where the JACC is today at 405 N. William St.

“It’s still the idea of, ‘If a town comes to a crossroads, how do people get along?’” Brown said. “The symbol of bringing two different denominations together and joining two completely different buildings is really the ultimate concept of community.”

The new congregation became known as the Community Presbyterian Church. Brown said the combining of the two churches brought together all kinds of people, including the Scottish immigrants who attended First Methodist and the English immigrants who attended the Presbyterian Church.

“We’ve got our town founder, he was of German descent,” she said. “So we’ve got these immigrants that are coming in here and they are setting down their roots. They’re leaving their mark, they are coming together and laying the very foundation of the town.”

The Community Presbyterian Church was active for 70 years, until a new church was built to the north.

“The takeaway for me is the idea of how people get along, how they got along at that time, how they survived,” Brown said. “There wasn’t a separation of, ‘It’s my faith, it’s your faith.’ It was a small town and they did pull together.”


In the 1990s, people began to speculate about what was next for the then-vacant Old Church.

“When the Presbyterian Church wanted to expand, they said to the historical society, ‘What are we going to do with the Old Church?’” Brown said. “There was talk of moving the building but that would have been cost prohibitive.”

People thought the then-century-old church was unsafe and wouldn’t last much longer, so the plan was to dismantle it and use the wood to build a church in Lapwai.

But as they began tearing it apart, project leader John Rodkey halted the work.

“When they got to the ribs of the building, John Rodkey said, ‘Wait, stop, we can’t go any farther,’” said Susan Jacklin, who married her husband, Duane, in the Old Church in 1983. “He took a plumb line and dropped it and said the framework was perfect.”

Susan and her husband were members of First Presbyterian at the time. She said the discussion of fighting demolition came up, and it was asked if anyone was interested in leading the restoration project.

“That’s when I raised my hand,” Susan said.

Susan, of the prominent and philanthropic Jacklin Seed family, said they made an agreement to buy the Old Church and property for whatever it was worth.

“We realized that the building had zero value,” she said, adding that the property was $76,000.

A $1.2 million restoration project then began, and along with it soon came the nonprofit Community Building Partners, doing business as The Jacklin Arts and Cultural Center.

The JACC is born

With help from individuals, historical societies, benevolent foundations, fundraisers and countless personal gifts and donations, the JACC opened its doors in 2005. Susan said she and Duane had no idea the Community Building Partners board planned to name the revitalized building in their honor.

“Duane and I were totally shocked,” she said. “I was just glad to be at the right place at the right time to make it happen. It was just serendipitous to be involved. It was at the right time in my life. I feel proud that I was able to help orchestrate it. We had a board for six years before we were even open.”

The historic building was restored to its former glory with just a few changes here and there - modern bathrooms, a full-service kitchen in the basement, the addition of a patio, a celebration hall in the sanctuary and a new front porch. Even the old church bell - while not the original - is a Meneely Bell Company bell from 1880, and visitors can pull the rope and still hear its magnificent sound for themselves.

“The board was great, the support of my husband and Riverbend, they’re all so supportive,” Susan said. “We live in a very generous community, and I sincerely mean that.”

JACC to the future

The Old Church has transformed into a hub of culture for Post Falls, as well as a community venue for comedy shows, celebrations and other social functions, like weddings.

Kootenai County Fire and Rescue Capt. Jeryl Archer is getting married in the JACC in August.

“Have you walked around it? It’s a beautiful building,” he said. “I’m a history nut, I love this building, but I brought my fiance around to several buildings, trying to be unbiased, and as soon as we pulled up out front, she fell in love with it.

“I don’t think we could find a better place.”

Susan, who grew up in Pittsburgh, is elated that this vital piece of Post Falls history found new life in the arts.

“My biggest excitement is for our community to have access to the arts,” she said. “From high school all the way through seniors. When I’m in the audience, I look around and I see everybody smiling and enjoying a performance. That is probably the best feeling I have about the Center.”

The JACC is finding new audiences with younger generations, as well. Post Falls High School junior Myrisa Laufenberg, 17, recently visited the JACC to check out an art show display.

“I think it’s awesome that they didn’t just level it,” she said. “It’s part of our town’s history. I think it’s so cool that it’s still open to the public for community events, like the art shows. It’s a pretty cool deal.”

She said she would like to thank those who rescued the building so her generation and beyond can appreciate its history and have a cultural center to enjoy.

“It’s awesome that they preserved it,” she said. “I don’t think enough people appreciate the history of our town. It’s really cool the JACC is still open.”

The JACC has a membership program, “Friends of the JACC,” for those who want to be active with the center and informed of events and goings on. The JACC, which is now managed by the Post Falls Chamber of Commerce, has a constantly full calendar of events, from culinary classes to musical performances.

“It has evolved, it has changed with time,” Brown said. “It’s living history.”


Information from: Coeur d’Alene Press, https://www.cdapress.com

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