WESTERN RESERVE VILLAGE New church finds its place in history

The nondenominational church was built from scratch with private donations.
CANFIELD -- It's not hard to imagine George Washington studying his Bible in one of the pews at the new Western Reserve Village church at the Canfield Fair. Or Eli Whitney kneeling to pray on the church's dark wooden floors. Or Noah Webster listening attentively to a sermon from the church's stately pulpit.
That's because the new church was designed to look like the churches that Washington, Whitney and Webster attended in the 18th century.
"We tried to make it authentic," said Carrie Bookwalter, a trustee of the Western Reserve Village Foundation. "I had it in my head that this is how I wanted it to look, and I think everyone did."
Construction workers put the final touches on the new 1,500-square-foot church so that it will be open for this year's fair. The church is the 14th building to open in the Western Reserve Village, which is a restoration of a typical Connecticut Western Reserve community.
The church is located between the village's general store and law offices. Work on the church began in May 2000.
Decision to build: Robert Rose, another foundation trustee, said the foundation has wanted to move a church into the village for several years. The other village buildings were at locations in Canfield and throughout Ohio before they were moved into the village.
Rose added, however, that the foundation could not find a church small enough to fit in the village. So the foundation members decided to build their own.
Bookwalter said that in order to ensure that the foundation's church was authentic, she toured the churches that Washington, Whitney and Webster attended in Connecticut and Virginia.
Photographs of those churches were used to create the plans for the church in the Western Reserve Village.
Foundation trustee C. Gilbert James added that the former Congregationalist Church in Canfield also served as inspiration for the Western Reserve Village church. Canfield United Methodist Church now stands on the site of the Congregationalist Church, he said.
About the church: The Western Reserve Village church will seat about 100 people in 24 pews donated by St. John Episcopal Church in Youngstown.
The walls are plain and white, and the only colors in the church are the soft reds, yellows and blues that emanate from the stained-glass windows above the altar and rear entrance.
Rose said the windows are memorials to Bob Hammett and Chuck and Carri Blunt, each of whom was active in organizing the fair. Hammett and Chuck Blunt had served as fair board directors.
The cost of constructing the church was $220,000, all of which was raised through private donations.
Rose said the church will be nondenominational and it will not be the site of weekly services.
He said, however, that local residents can rent the church for ceremonies such as weddings by calling the fair board.

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