A day before the old St. Peter’s Catholic Church hosted an open house event in Echo, a handful of curious bypassers stopped in to get a glimpse of the historic building, which was constructed in 1913.
“It’s so neat to see the doors open,” Matthew Greenup said Saturday as he made his way up the concrete stairs.
The Heppner man was in town looking at antiques and heard there was some activity at the old church. The building was de-consecrated in 1996 and donated to the Fort Henrietta Foundation by the Diocese of Baker. While initial discussion centered around a possible museum, the church has sat empty for more than 20 years. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on Aug. 28, 1997.
A small group of volunteers with the Echo Kiwanis Club and Fort Henrietta Foundation worked both inside and outside the structure Saturday in preparation for Sunday’s open house. In addition to dusting and vacuuming, Kiwanian Phyllis Shovelski said they removed the plastic covers from the ornate statues and other fixtures inside the building. Outside, Michael Duffy, Echo Kiwanis president, cleaned up the parking area with a backhoe.
The Kiwanis, Duffy said, have no interest in taking over the project. However, he said they want to lend a hand and provide financial support to help in reducing the building’s degradation.
“We need to treat this as the treasure it is,” Duffy said.
Regardless of their religious upbringing, Shovelski said the consensus from what she hears from the people around town is they don’t want to see the building destroyed. In fact, she said the building elicits quite the emotional response from some people.
“A year ago it was covered in bird droppings, dead flies, cobwebs and there was a beehive in the wall,” Shovelski said. “It was pretty bad and people were tearful.”
The inaugural Echo Oktoberfest, held in 2016, raised about $6,000 for the project, Shovelski said. The Kiwanis are again hosting an Oktoberfest event, with most of the funds going to the St. Peter’s project. Some of the money, Shovelski said, will be earmarked for the Kiwanis scholarship program for area youths who are furthering their education.
This year’s Echo Oktoberfest is Saturday, Oct. 21 beginning at 4 p.m. in downtown Echo. The family-friendly event will include kids’ activities, food (German sausage, coleslaw, potato salad, hot dogs and brats) and beverages, including 16 varieties of beer from Hermiston Brewing Co., Shovelski said. In addition, Cruise Control, an oldies rock and roll band from the Tri-Cities, will perform.
Oktoberfest tickets are $15. Those purchased in advance will include $20 in event tokens. They are available at H&P Cafe in Echo, Hermiston Brewing Co. & Nookies Restaurant and from Echo Kiwanis members.
For more information, contact Duffy at 541-303-5730, firstname.lastname@example.org, Shovelski at 541-379-6992 or Joe Ramos at 509-366-3980.
Contact Community Editor Tammy Malgesini at email@example.com or 541-564-4539