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First English Lutheran Church
By: Jennifer Walker-Journey

For nearly a century, First English Lutheran Church has been serving Appleton, Wisconsin. Through the years, as the congregation grew, the church expanded. In 1998, First English added a second site in order to reach more members of the community.

While the development of the new site offered new opportunities for the church, it did not go unnoticed that there was a need to spruce up the original, historic location. In 2002, after a generous gift from a member, church leadership set out to significantly renovate and expand parts of the building dedicated to learning and fellowship. At the heart of this project was a new vision to create the Arthur Krempin School of Music & Art, to provide opportunities for exploring the visual and auditory arts.

The church hired Oscar J. Boldt Construction to serve as the construction manager and general contractor, and church member Steve Ford was the designer. The team matched the church's needs with the historic space and developed a schematic design for a 14,000-square-foot addition constructed behind the present Sunday school building, and a 16,000-square-foot renovation of the building for classrooms and offices. The finished product would add 13 classrooms, 2,300-square-feet of office space, and a choral music room for the Arthur Krempin School of Music & Art. It would also address flow issues outside the sanctuary. This congested area was opened up, easing foot traffic between the sanctuary and the Sunday school classrooms.

The music and art room was of particular interest, said Paul Coenen, vice president of operations for Boldt's Appleton office. Angles and ceiling heights had to be addressed in order to make the room acoustically correct for the vocal talent that would be performing and practicing there.

"You have to stay away from straight boxes and balance that with softer materials to knock down reflective noise," Coenen said.

The same attention to detail was paid to the exterior of the building, and that proved challenging. The original building was constructed of quarry stone. Another addition several years ago was made of brick, but even church leadership realized this cost-cutting measure probably wasn't the best idea from an aesthetic perspective. The plan was to match the quarry stone, and Boldt set out to find the perfect match. It was like searching for a needle in a haystack, according to Coenen.

"In and around our state, just south of us there are several stone quarries. When this building was built 100 years ago or so, they probably used local quarry stone," Coenen said. "We took pictures and traveled to different quarries and located the closest match we could find. Some of these stone quarries are passed on from family to family. It's not unusual for someone who operates one of these quarries to recognize a stone and know exactly what quarry it came out of. In this case, we got lucky. We feel we found the quarry that original stone came out of."

But even with the matching quarry stone in hand, the hard work was only beginning.

"The second leg to this whole historical thing is that the stone masons have to think like stone masons from 100 years ago with relation to large and small stones, square or unequal ones," Coenen said. "You have to match the stones up equally. If not, it will show up negatively on the wall."

Boldt's stone masons had to custom hone each stone to copy size and scale. In many cases, such as window sills, jambs, heads and especially the main entry archway, the architect trusted Boldt to create stone shop drawings. In order to ensure success, stone masons had to work as a team on the same wall at the same time in order ensure the stonework blended not only with the original walls but also with the newly constructed ones. 

The attention to detail paid off. When the project was completed, Oscar J. Boldt Construction received the Craft Award, an honor sponsored by the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers recognizing the Best National Stone Project.

The award was a nice honor for Boldt, but it is the members of First English Lutheran Church and the surrounding community who came out the winners. With the addition of the Arthur Krempin School of Music & Art, the church's music program has expanded. The church has also been able to capitalize on its mission: "We are People of God who Gather to Worship, Grow in Faith and Give to Others." The music room is available for community groups and nonprofit organizations.

Oscar J. Boldt Construction has offices in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, California, and Oklahoma, and is one of the largest professional construction services firms in the nation, www.theboldtcompany.com.

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