19th Century Okarche church receiving face lift

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Yukon Progress, Yukon Review
Susan Alig, far right, is being assisted with renovations to the church by her son Patrick Regan, second from left, and grandchildren Suzan, far left, and Daniel Regan. (Photo by Mindy Ragan Wood)

By Mindy Ragan Wood
Staff Writer

OKARCHE – A church that was built in 1890 was in danger of being torn down, but the owner is making it a show piece that may be open for public use.

The Congregational Church, a denomination similar to the Methodists, has been saved by Susan Alig who plans to convert it to space that could be used for weddings, meetings, and parties. She purchased the church in 2001 and said she may even call it home one day.

“My son used to be in Boy Scouts here,” she recalled, standing in the basement. “I just kind of fell in love in with it then. The Methodist Church owned it at the time. I asked them if they were interested in selling it and they let me know they weren’t but they kept my number. About five years later, I got a call. We struck a deal and I got a bargain.”

The church sat untouched for several years until someone else was interested in buying it. Another church wanted to tear it down and move it to use as construction material for its sanctuary, but the venture proved too costly and the sale fell through.

Yukon Progress, Yukon Review, Okarche Warrior
The sanctuary of the former Congregational Church stands ready for a new look.

The 19th Century church remained in need of significant repairs and faced the danger of being torn down due to its condition. Alig decided to dust off her old plans for the structure and fix it up.

Several features of the church will remain including a few pews, many of the stain glass windows and the bell tower. Alig’s son Patrick Regan is rehabbing the church to include a full kitchen, loft and living space separate from where the sanctuary stands.

“We’re water-proofing the tower and stoning it in,” she said. “The bell definitely stays. We won’t keep all the stain glass windows because it would make it too dark in here, but I am hanging on to several of them and plan to use them somehow. We’re adding insulation because there’s no insulation in these walls.”

A few findings the church will likely repurpose include several game table tops, which appeared to be a poker table with the names of old Okarche businesses on each one.

The old oven and stove may prove beneficial as Alig is having a technician evaluate it for possible future use.