First Christian Church (Lonoke)
The First Christian Church in Lonoke (Lonoke County) is a historic structure noted for Craftsman-style details with some Tudor Revival style features. The two-story building, while no longer housing an active church, is located in the heart of downtown Lonoke.
Incorporated in 1872, Lonoke grew quickly as a stop on the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad. Several efforts by local citizens to organize a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) failed, including in 1898, 1901, and 1903. The 1903 effort led to the purchase of a lot and building supplies, but the family leading the effort left Arkansas, putting the effort on hold. Those interested in the church continued to worship in their homes until several revivals in 1913 finally proved to be the impetus for the organization of a congregation. A revival held in October 1913 led to the signing of a charter by about ten members. Another revival in late December 1913 and early 1914 led to around twenty additional members.
The congregation met in a hall on the second floor of a blacksmith shop for two years while plans were made to construct a building. Various fundraising efforts, including bake sales and bazaars, helped the congregation purchase a lot on the corner of 2nd and Depot Streets. The initial fundraising fell short after construction began, and a loan was taken out by Mrs. W. Y. Bransford to complete the structure. Bransford put up some of her jewelry as collateral for the loan.
Charles E. Hamm and Frank Goodbar constructed the church, with the building completed in 1916. The Craftsman-style rectangular building is two stories, with the first-floor exterior covered in weatherboard and the second story covered in stucco. Facing south and resting on a continuous brick foundation, the building’s front entrance consists of double Tudor-style doors with iron strap hinges. Seven concrete steps lead to the entryway, which is part of porch covered by a gabled roof. A bell tower is located above the entryway, but the original steeple is no longer present.
The exterior of the church is notable for its many windows. The front of the church includes three twelve-over-twelve windows on the first floor, with windows on the second floor located directly above each first-floor window. Five additional windows are located on the porch, and numerous windows are present on the other walls of the structure.
The interior of the building includes a sanctuary with a raised chancel and a choir loft. Original brass door hardware is also present. Craftsman details include battered walls, exposed rafter tails, and decorative brackets. Tudor Revival details include the front entryway doors. Few updates have been made to the building, most notably the addition of heat and air systems.
It is unclear when the dwindling congregation met for the final time and abandoned the building. The structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 9, 1997. The interior of the structure in 2023 looks much the same as it did when services ceased. The building was named as one of the most endangered structures in the state by Preserve Arkansas in 2022. It is owned by the granddaughter of Charles Hamm, and efforts to preserve the structure have started.
For additional information:
“First Christian Church, Lonoke.” National Register for Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Office, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at https://www.arkansasheritage.com/docs/default-source/national-registry/LN0116-pdf (accessed December 8, 2023).
Graves, Leigh Marks. “First Christian Church.” Newsletter: Lonoke County Historical Society 18 (Winter 1998): 5–7.
Jenkins, Cary. “Seeking Sanctuary.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 25, 2022, pp. 1D, 6D. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/jul/25/last-members-of-lonokes-1916-first-christian-see/ (accessed December 8, 2023).
“Most Endangered Places—2022: First Christian Church.” Preserve Arkansas. https://preservearkansas.org/first-christian-church/ (accessed December 8, 2023).
Southeastern Louisiana University
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