Cordelia Lutheran Church

Took an early morning drive through the countryside with and a vague plan to meander South and perhaps find the Cordelia Lutheran Church. I'd only recently heard about it, in the context of a summer concert or some other event. I must say, I was a bit surprised by its diminutive size.

Cordelia Lutheran Church, North of Genesee, ID. Built in 1883, it was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1995.

You should visit the church website to get the full story, but here's a synopsis: It was built in 1883 by Swedish Lutheran settlers. Cost of original materials: $72.83. It remains almost entirely intact today, with only minor repairs over the years. It has been saved numerous times over the years (1938, 1948, 1992). Today it is maintained by Friends of Cordelia and used for concerts, weddings, and other events.


Inside there are about 16 small, uncomfortable-looking pews, an organ, and a lectern. No heat or electricity, although in its heyday it did have a stove of some sort. A 2009 project replaced the original wallpaper with a reproduction looking exactly the same. The little box in the corner seems to be a mousetrap.

Interior of the little church. The reproduction wallpaper matches the original 1883 design.
The pulpit with organ and lectern. There is a small bible on the lectern, but the large one is a guest book.

I took more than a passing interest in the organ because my good friend Matt just happens to be a Swedish Lutheran Organist. He's got a regular gig at a big fancy church in the D.C. area. But if that doesn't work out, perhaps he can fill the vacancy here.

I naturally assumed the organ was old and fragile, and wouldn't dare try to play it. After a while I noticed the little note card which actually encourages visitors to give it a try. I still didn't (sorry Matt). Here's what the church website has to say about the organ:

The first organ was purchased by Rev. Carlson and Carl P. Anderson for $50 and moved from place to place where meetings were held in 1880. It was a reed pump organ, meaning the sound was generated by sucking air through brass reeds. The vacuum was generated by the feet pumping the vacuum bellow and regulated by the knee board, stops, and keyboard. The reed organ was invented in 1835 and was commonly used in homes and small churches from 1860 to 1920. Shortly after the church was disbanded it has been told that part of the organ was sold. It was reported in the Spokane Review on May 30, 1948 that "mice had made shambles of the interior of the little organ, eating the felt padding and ivory keys had been torn away." In 1948 the lid exposing the inside of the organ was made to hinge, but it did not work properly in 1991. Extensive damage to the organ in the summer of 1997 was consistent with someone sitting or falling on it. Structural repairs were made, but damages described in 1948 were extensive and the organ would never play music again. A functional pump organ was donated to Cordelia on April 7, 2007 by John Elwood and Sally Burkhart. The organ was built by Clough and Warren Company of Detroit Michigan in about 1883. The disassembled organ was found in the basement of a Goodwill Store near Bellingham, Washington by their son who restored the instrument. The organ dedication concert was held on September 23, 2007.

This is not the original organ, but a replacement donated in 2007.
The notecard encourages visitors to give the organ a try.

Also not to be missed on the tour is the authentic his-n-hers outhouse!

Adorable, yet terrifying.