Chalk it off as a victory for Lansing's historical preservation community.

Preservation Lansing is teaming up with Mayor Andy Schor and local faith leaders to honor the designation of Central United Methodist Church as the city's first historic district church.

It’s no small task to maintain the building at its size and age, said Cassandra Nelson, vice president of Preservation Lansing.

“It requires never-ending maintenance and a lifetime commitment.”

The huge downtown stone building, built in 1888 by Capitol building architect Elijah E. Myers, is a bastion of turn of the century architecture and ‘20s era installations. An original gym, bowling alley, ballroom, classrooms and pipe organ — equipped with 3,000 pipes — span the facility outside the sanctuary.

The church is listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of Interior and registered as a Michigan Historic site.

“No changes can be made to the exterior of the building without review from the historical district commission.”

The building is currently undergoing a $200,000 exterior renovation.

“We need to make sure the building doesn’t fall apart before we make it look pretty,” said chair of the board of trustees Larry Beckon. “A lot of that was given from people who left money in their wills to restore the building.”

One of the church’s latest renovations was cleaning a 16 by 20 foot stained glass window.

“It was going to fall down. We hired a company, who took the entire window out, took out every single piece of glass, washed it and put it together again to last for 500 more years.”

Becok said restoring the building will continue the church’s mission as a community center.

“They didn’t build a bowling alley for everyone in the church to go bowling. They built it for the community.”

Two youth basketball leagues frequent the church and its facilities are rented out often.

“As much as we can we open up the door for people to use the facility for low cost,” pastor Mark Thomas said. “We aren’t here to make a huge profit, but serve the community.”

Even if the age of the building presents challenges, the congregation sees it as an asset.

“The integrity of the building outside and inside is a draw," Thomas said. "It accentuates people wanting to not only look at the building but use it.”

Historic District

Church Celebration Thursday, Sept. 13 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Lansing Central United Methodist Church 215 N. Capitol Ave. (517) 485-9477 events