First Eureka Springs Church
The congregation of St. James' Church was the first church congregation to be organized in Eureka Springs--just two years after the town of Eureka Springs was incorporated in 1880. The organization occurred through the efforts of the Reverend J. J. Vaulx of Fayetteville, Arkansas, who held services once a month for several years. During this period, a frame chapel was built on Mountain Street. The regular organization was effected on September 15, 1887. The Rev. D. S. C. M. Potter, D. D., assumed charge of St. James on December 14, 1887.
From Classroom to Nave
In January 1889, when the new brick schoolhouse was built, St. James' parish was presented with the old Cromer school building; the present-day home for St. James' congregation. The building was remodeled and became a permanent home for the congregation. During this time, the city was at the height of prosperity and St. James was a thriving parish. St. James' Church was formally consecrated on Holy Innocents Day 1913.
The town declined in population after the First World War and regular services at St. James' declined with it. With no resident priest and no regular services, the church deteriorated until 1946. In 1947, a handful of faithful Episcopalians, many of whom had recently moved to Eureka Springs, gave time, talent, and treasure to recondition the dilapidated church. In 1948, the diocese instituted a resident priest at St. James.
Devastation and Renewal
On August 24, 1962, a disastrous fire ravaged the church, destroying the pipe organ (the second oldest in Arkansas), the rood screen, a portion of the building, and most of the furnishings. Fortunately, the loss was partially covered by insurance. On September 12, 1962, the congregation decided to rebuild the church, meanwhile holding services at a temporary chapel at Lake Lucerne. On Easter Day, April 14, 1963, the first service was held in the renovated church.
The church building was enlarged in 1983 when a larger sacristy and an undercroft kitchen were added. The Lane House, also called St. James' House, was returned to being the administrative offices in 2004. This house was a gift to the parish in the 1960s and for quite some time was used for youth outreach. The gardens have been maintained and improved more than once in the last 50 years.
The congregation has weathered many challenges in the past decade, including a pandemic. We continue to serve the community by hosting an annual Silver Tea at the Crescent Hotel. We continue to feed the community with Sunday Suppers throughout the Winter months. Many of our members gladly volunteer around the area to take the Gospel out beyond our walls and famous red doors. This is a little community that strives to follow the Gospel's challenge out beyond our red doors into the community. We are a small family church that knows the power of Jesus' love and salvation for each of us.
On Monday, June 26, 2023, around 2:30 AM an early morning fire was called in by a concerned worker leaving the Cresent Hotel. Fire Trucks from Eureka Springs, Inspiration Point, Holiday Island, and Berryville rushed to find the interior of the church engulfed in flames. The interior of the building and a significant portion of the bell tower has been lost. Many area churches and businesses reached out to offer us a temporary home. St. James accepted the invitation at St. Elizabeth Parish Center to meet in the coming months as we plan our next steps. We are learning that the church is its people. May God guide us as move forward to Love God and our neighbors....no exceptions.