By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

It is an often overlooked piece of history in Crescent City a reminder of an era when Presbyterians tried and failed to get a foothold in the area.

Today, its in the midst of a renovation of sorts, bringing it from a place of worship to a residence.

Weve made a lot of improvements inside, said Sonny Syrstad, who bought the building in 1999 so his daughter could open a day-care center. The daycare closed because of licensing problems. Weve made some repairs outside, but by keeping with the original layout.

Its never had living quarters in the past. Were just making a comfortable apartment upstairs for people who want to use the recreation room area downstairs, said Syrstad.

The church, the last of Crescent Citys Victorian churches, has a long history at the corner of 4th and E streets. For many years, it was overshadowed by several magnificent Catholic churches built a block away, all of which were destroyed by fires.

The church from the outside looks much like it did when it was constructed except that the steeple that adorned the southwest corner no longer exists.

According to documents in the possession of the Del Norte County Historical Society, the building was constructed in 1892 by J.E. Eldredge, who was seeking a foothold for Presbyterians in Crescent City after others had tried and congregations disbanded.

Eldredge purchased the land at 4th and E streets with a grant of $1000 and began building a home for 16 members, all converts from the Methodist congregation.

A.B. Campbell designed the original structure. The cornerstone was laid on June 10, 1892 and was dedicated June 15 the following year.

The following 42 years witnessed the apex of Presbyterianism in Del Norte County. Sunday school attendance reached as high as 60 persons. The house directly north of the church was the original parsonage, which was built in 1916.

In 1933, the local Presbyterian and Methodist churches federated. Combined morning services were held at 4th and E streets, evening services were at the Methodist chapel at 5th and G streets.

In 1946 the federation ended, and by secret ballot the patronage of both local churches voted to adopt Methodism.

Thus ended the Presbyterian era of Crescent City. The top of the steeple was removed in 1946. The 4th and E street church was sold to Ralph Yoder, a private party, for $3,500.

After passing through several private hands, it became the home for the Church Of Christ in the early 1960s.

Bernard and Silvia McClendon bought the property in 1966, and then deeded it to the FEZ club (an offshoot of the Shriners Club) in 1970.

We often rented it out for bingo and for parties, said Art Lower, Shrine member and designated keeper of the minutes.

The roof began leaking and we didnt have the money to fix it, said Lower. Around 1990 the property was sold to Elizabeth Piro, who then donated it to St. Josephs Catholic Church in memory of her husband.

As for the local Presbyterians, they now hold their services in Brookings and Orick.