A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

‘Labor of love:’ Taking care of Whitespires

Written February 8th, 2022 by Hasso Hering

The work on Albany’s Whitespires Church had a couple of young sidewalk superintendents Tuesday afternoon.

For a couple of weeks now, the Whitespires Church has been getting a careful facelift with the help of a big orange boom lift, visible from blocks away. On Tuesday the bike took me past this Albany landmark at Fifth and Washington, and I stopped to take a photo or two.

The church dates from 1891, when it was constructed as the United Presbyterian Church, according to Albany’s inventory of  historic buildings. At 93 feet, it’s the tallest building in town. Only some communications towers are taller.

The Berean Fellowship Church, which owns the building, shares it with another congregation, the Calvary Chapel Albany. The Berean Fellowship is funding the restoration work now under way, and Calvary Chapel is having the work done.

Dan Berg, the pastor of Calvary Chapel, told me the job is being handled by a friend of the congregation who has a contracting business. (He preferred not to name him for this story because he had not gotten his permission.)

So far the work has included cleaning and fixing the roof, and especially stopping leaks. The pinnacles on the steeple and roof are made of metal with a wooden center, Berg told me. The leaks were damaging some of the restoration work already done inside the building and needed to be dealt with.

I talked with church members at the scene. Painting the outside is next, they told me, and they expect this to take another week or so.

Refurbishing this building is a big job. These are small congregations. The chapel has between 70 and 80 members, and the fellowship is smaller.  So how do they manage it?

“It’s a labor of love,” Berg told me. “We do church the old-fashioned way. We help one another out.”

For taking care of this historic building, probably the most photographed church in Albany, these congregations deserve everybody’s thanks. (hh)

A closer look at the details of the Gothic Revival style of the Whitespires Church.



7 responses to “‘Labor of love:’ Taking care of Whitespires”

  1. Bob Woods says:

    An absolutely gorgeous building. The two congregations deserve a round of applause for keeping the city’s heritage healthy.

  2. CHEZZ says:

    I enjoy hearing that the church, at 93 feet is the tallest building in Albany! No skyscrapers in site!

  3. Patricia Eich says:

    A beautiful Church. I always stop in when historic tours are held. I am not a member of either congregation but over the years have enjoyed attending their Christmas eve serivces. Years ago when our now 30 year old son was along with me, he was able to go up in the bell tower and ring the bell. Can’t do that anymore. I know that work to restore the pipe organ has been going on for many years. I noticed that exterior cleaning was bieing done and happy to learn that it is being painted. People familiar with some of the history of Albany will know that the stained glass windows in the Whitespires, the United Presbyterian Church on the next block and the old St. Mary’s Catholic Church that was destoryed in an arson fire in 1989 were all designed by the Povey brothers of Portland, Oregon. Hasso, thank you for featuring this story.

  4. John Hartman says:

    Not sure if this building lies within the jurisdiction of the Albany Historical Commission and Preservation Committee….but if it does, did the Commission/Committee approve the paint being used. Wasn’t lead-based paint de rigueur at the time of original painting? Would the use of non-lead based paint violate the Commission’s Mission?

  5. William Looney says:

    My family had a longtime membership in the Whitespires. From the turn of the twentieth century until the forced merger with the United Presbyterian Church across the street from the courthouse.
    The Looney and Perfect families attended there. My grandparents, Jed and Adrianna (Perfect) were married there in 1919. Merilee and Thad Looney were their children. Merilee was 16 when she died, and up to 1937, her funeral was the largest funeral in Albany. She sang played piano and organ at church, while playing Ragtime on the piano, on Saturdays, with the church doors open. Thad built many homes, a church or two, and some commercial buildings in Albany. He and another man saved the stain glass window, after the Columbus Day storm, on the church.
    I am thrilled about the renovation work!

  6. Kathwren Hayes says:

    I love this church. I am so happy others also love this church and are caring for it.
    My Sister in Law,Sharon Hayes, was married in this church. Since she was 40, my husband, myself and all three of my children were in her wedding.

    Also, my husband and I celebrated the “Recommitment” of marriage on Feb 14, 1988 along with several other couples. It was done Victorian style, a fund raiser for Whitespires…including a horse and buggy ride for the brides and grooms at the end. (See Democrat-Herald Monday Feb 15, 1988.


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