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Heart Prairie Evangelical Lutheran Church

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c. 1856, Ole Nosman. R and W Town Line Rd., just south of Chapel Dr.

In the early 1840s, several families emigrated from Skien in southern Norway’s Telemark region to this area at Whitewater Lake called Heart Prairie. Thirty-seven of the settlers met in 1844 to establish a congregation with the Reverend Claus Clausen, pastor at the large Norwegian community of Muskego and missionary to surrounding Norwegian settlements. A decade later, the parishioners began building a church at the lake’s edge. Accounts differ over the date, but work may have begun in 1855 and reached completion in 1857. Mason Ole Nosman trimmed cream brick walls with a plain brick frieze surmounted by a dogtooth and then a dentil course. The segmental-arched doors and windows and the Gothic-arched louvered belfry openings show the immigrants’ creative borrowings from the fashions of their adopted country. The central pulpit, fronted by a semicircular chancel, faces the congregation’s original hand-hewn pews.

The congregation merged with a congregation in Whitewater in the 1940s, limiting this building’s use. In the 1950s, the consolidated parish returned for Sunday morning services in the summer and for “Oil Lamp Services” on the last Sunday evening of every summer month. The church acquired nineteenth-century vestments from Norway and for some years revived the use of Norwegian liturgy. The building itself, complete with oil lamps and pump organ, was restored in the late 1950s and ranks among the oldest Norwegian Lutheran churches still in use in the United States.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Marsha Weisiger et al.
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Citation

Marsha Weisiger et al., "Heart Prairie Evangelical Lutheran Church", [Whitewater, Wisconsin], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/WI-01-WL19.

Print Source

Buildings of Wisconsin

Buildings of Wisconsin, Marsha Weisiger and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017, 192-192.

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