First Universalist Unitarian Church in Wausau Remodels to Meet the Growing Years
Years of dreaming and planning have led to the current remodeling project of First Universalist Unitarian Church in Wausau, Wisconsin. The congregation's new space will be ready for occupancy in the fall of 2007. The design maintains the architectural character of the church's historic building, provides wheelchair accessibility to all new and old spaces, offers new energy efficiencies, and will make it possible to hold larger events for the Wausau-area community.
Wausau in 1870. The first building was sold to St. Stephen Lutheran Church. A second building was erected on the opposite corner in 1886. That property was sold to the Mount Sinai Jewish congregation. The church's present building, constructed in 1915, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Its three wings were designed by architect Alexander Eschweiler to represent and connect to three different aspects of our lives - domestic, social, and spiritual. But to make the physical connection between dozens of odd levels, one had to climb many many stairs. While children loved the twisting corridors and odd crannies which made for wonderful hide-and-seek games, the space wasn't configured for the needs of a growing congregation. In the 1950s, the east wing was converted from a parsonage into classroom and office space. That wing, recently demolished, will be rebuilt and expanded.
The architect for the current expansion project is Design Unlimited; Don Nikolai Construction is the general contractor. The design serves as a sculptural history of the congregation, showing how the Christian roots of Unitarian Universalism have grown over the centuries. Contemporary Unitarian Universalism embraces wisdom from a broad world of religions, from science and the humanities, and from the rhythmic cycles of the natural world. The hub of the new space, a glass-enclosed atrium, will help the congregation connect to the world outside. The atrium will also showcase the old building's exterior stonework, provide new gathering space, and serve as a bright airy connection between the sanctuary and the new classrooms and offices.
Hundreds of donors have indicated their commitment to provide a continuing home in Wausau for the practice of religious freedom. As of January 2007, over $1.25 million had been raised toward what will ultimately be a $2 million project.The church's new space will support congregational growth and an expansion of programs for both children and adults.