MADISON — It will be the celebration of the century this Fourth of July weekend.
The Historic Presbysterian Community Center will be observing its centennial with activities and performances spread over four days.
On Nov. 18, 1913, the cornerstone was laid for First Presbyterian Church, which spent most of its first 100 years as a church.
The distinctive brown brick building opened in 1914 at the corner of Third and Nebraska streets. It was the third and final church building to serve the once-growing congregation, which held its first service in a school house in Madison in 1870.
In the past six years, the church has been transformed into a community and cultural center. While the building still has hosted a couple of weddings and Easter services, its primary use has been for concerts, plays, art shows and other community gatherings.
The property also has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Jeanne Reigle, a member of the Preservation Madison Inc. board of directors, has been involved in the effort to preserve the church since it was purchased in 2005 for $1,000.
From July 4-7, there will be a video shown in the building that includes interviews with members talking about memories from when it was a church and goals for the building’s future.
The building’s architecture is unusual and distinctive. It has octagon-shaped Sunday school rooms and features beautiful stained-glass windows and impressive woodwork. The video was put together by Reigle and Kristy Knapp of Madison.
Knapp is also one of the four artists who will have artwork featured in the sun room of the building during the celebration. There also will be raffle drawings and a silent auction featuring the artwork.
Another highlight will be performances of the play, “37 Postcards,” which is being directed by Adam Peterson, director of theater at Northeast Community College, with assistance from April Taylor of Norfolk.
The play is being performed in the building with only a small stage, with the whole building transformed into a house and used during the play, which features six cast members.
That means that the performers will be going outside and going upstairs and entering in a different door to give the illusion of coming in from a different room or the upstairs.
Peterson said he walked in and looked at the space and wondered, “Where’s the stage?” Then as he looked around, he saw how the building could work to be made part of the performance.
“We’ve really made it work well,” Peterson said. “It’s starting to feel like we are sitting in a house.”
The 90-minute comedy will be performed on Saturday, July 6, at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 7, at 2 p.m. The suggested donation is $5.
The next step in the preservation of the building is to make it accessible for the handicapped. A lift is expected to cost about $40,000, with a goal of raising about half of it during the next four days.
Madison is having many other activities on July 4. Those attending are encouraged to get a passport and get it stamped by attending the American Legion Post 35 Veterans Memorial Garden, the Grand Fourth of July Parade, the Madison County Museum & Northeast Nebraska Model Railroad Display, the Trinity Untied Methodist Church ice cream social and activities at the Historic Presbyterian Arts Center.
Here is a partial listing of some of the activities at the historic center, hitting the highlights:
Thursday, July 4: Tours of Historic Arts, 1 to 4 p.m., Center/Art Show.
Friday, July 5: 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., Century Square Dance, 7:30 p.m., magic show and clowns.
Saturday, July 6, 5:30 p.m., Art show and tours; 6:30 to 8 p.m., “37 Postcards” play.
Sunday, July 7, 1 p.m. Deep Rooted Men’s Quartet; 2 p.m., “37 Postcards” play; 3:30 p.m. raffle drawing, silent auction.