After more than six years of perseverance and effort by the Western Fremont Historical Society, the 1898 Free Methodist Church building in Howard stands proud once again. Despite the best efforts of local craftsmen and dedicated volunteers since WFHS acquired the now 122 year old building in 1999, the “little white church” (as it was known to locals) had gradually deteriorated to the point where skilled specialists were needed to preserve this beloved historic landmark.

WFHS partnered with the History Colorado State Historic Fund (SHF) to secure the necessary funding for the rehabilitation project. The State Historic Fund receives funds for grants through a portion of tax revenues from limited-stakes gambling in the towns of Cripple Creek, Central City, and Black Hawk and directs the grants toward preserving local historic resources which in turn provides an economic boost to local communities and businesses. In 2014-16 SHF provided a $10,000 grant for a Historic Structure Assessment of the building. Based on the HSA findings, the Historical Society began a rigorous grant application process which required securing a quarter of the anticipated costs of the project as a cash match in advance of submitting the grant application. In 2017-18 WFHS was able to raise $24,000 through the generous support of WFHS members, the Pleasant Valley community at large, community organizations such as the Pleasant Valley Club, the Sangre de Cristo Electric Association (SDCEA) Board of Directors, SDCEA Operation Roundup and CoBank Sharing Success, as well as a grant from The Anschutz Foundation. In early 2019 WFHS was awarded a major grant of $71,928 from the State Historical Fund for the external rehabilitation of the Howard church building.

Actual on-site work on the Howard Church Project began in May 2020 and finished with a Final Meeting on Nov. 5, 2020. The management team on the project consisted of Barbara Darden (preservation architect with Scheuber & Darden, Architects), Jon Sargent (general contractor & owner, Deep Roots Timberworks), Craig Leitner (president, WFHS Board of Directors) and Ellen Hopkins (WFHS Preservation Project coordinator and grant manager) with input from Mike Perschbacher of Older Than Dirt Construction. Preservation Activities included the following: stabilization of the original stone foundation, restoration of the windows, restoration of the wooden siding and trim, prep and paint the outside of the building in the original colors, rehabilitation of the front entry to be compliant with ADA and Fremont County codes, and grading around the building to improve drainage. All of the preservation work was completed in compliance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation.

The Howard church building, built in 1898 and the only religious building between Salida and Canon City until 1955, was originally a landmark structure for the town of Howard and is currently designated by Fremont County as a historically significant site. Today the building serves as the WFHS History Center which houses a collection of local artifacts and archives and is open to the public on a regular basis during the warmer months. More information (and photos) about the preservation project and the Western Fremont Historical Society can be found on the WFHS website: WestFremontHistory.com or on Facebook: Western Fremont Historical Society.