History on Wheels: Over a Century-Old West Des Moines Church Moving for Road Expansion

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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — With bright red doors and original windows, Maple Grove United Methodist Church has stood on the edge of West Des Moines off Ashworth Road for over a century.

“It will be 119 years this July,” Judi Spencer said. But history was almost lost.

“The city of West Des Moines is widening Ashworth Road, and they were going to take up to our front porch,” Stephanie Watson said. “It was either demolish, or sell, or move it.”

So move it they did.

“We figured if people had faith in the late 1800s to build a church here, then we could have faith to keep it going,” Candy Sweeney said.

The church made its way 150 feet back. It’s a small move, but church members say it was worth it.

“It’s costing a lot of money, but we just couldn’t see the local history being lost,” Watson said.

While the city is helping with some of the costs, compensating a little over $24,000 to relocate the church, church members say the price to move is upwards of $90,000, including the new basement, moving, and then renovating up to code.

“It was OK that it was going to move as long as it could stay an icon in the neighborhood and this area,” Sweeney said.

For Sweeney, Maple Grove is much more than a historic building, attending this very church since the age of three.

“We did children programs and baptisms, and just all kinds of really great memories,” Sweeney said.

Now, with the church moving to its new home, they have faith a century more of memories will be made.

“Sure, why not. I won’t be here to see that, unfortunately, but our generations below us will,” Spencer said.

Both the city and the church worked closely together to find a solution during what is called a voluntary acquisition process. The city did not pursue or have to use eminent domain for the acquisition of property, according to the City of West Des Moines’ engineer Jason Schlickbernd.

The congregation is working to raise the rest of the cost to make this old church usable again. They have a Go Fund Me page set up.


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