Manzanola First United Methodist Church is an old building with an even older history, one that is linked to the town of Manzanola itself.

The church moved into its current building  in 1908, but for a dozen years prior to that, it operated out of another building at 2nd Street and Canal, according to the Historic Preservation Council nomination form presented by Alice McDonald and Rebecca Goodwin at Monday's Otero Board of County Commissioners meeting.

The nomination, a 70-page document composed by McDonald filled with facts and documentation about the church and its history, had been reviewed and unanimously approved by the Otero County Preservation Board earlier in the month, according to Goodwin.

All it needed was the county commissioners' approval, which was granted.

"It's a very old church; quite a grand church," McDonald said. "Over the years, it has deteriorated quite a bit. ... We want to preserve it, and we're having trouble with the windows and some water problems and electrical problems."

Being added to the county's historic register will open up the church to grants and other funding for preservation and restoration purposes. McDonald said by registering the church, she hopes the historic board will get assistance in grant writing and other forms of help.

The United Methodist Church took residence in its current building in 1908, but the Methodist Episcopal Society dates back to at least 1893, when it organized and held meetings from an elementary school building, according to the nomination document. In those days, Manzanola was not even the township's name yet.

Manzanola was known then as the Town of Catlin, and before that, it was briefly the Town of Apishipa and, before that, the Town of Grams Ranch, according to the nomination document and County Administrator Amy White-Tanabe.

Today, the Manzanola United Methodist Church serves its community through various programs and projects.

"They run the Operation Christ Christmas Child, they do mission work, they work with the Arkansas Valley Resource Center with the Helping Hand, Healing Heart program," said Goodwin. "They work with the migrant ministry and the Manzanola quick response team. They have the daycare program in the church."

McDonald described the church building's architecture as a "gothic-revival style with regional vernacular influences that are indicative to Southwestern style," and a part of what makes the church so important.

"The integrity of it from our standpoint is very intact," said McDonald. "Some of the ornamentation that we talked about, the cross and some of the finials over the doors, are missing."

Ornamentation can be recreated, said McDonald, and she has old photographs of the originals that will make sure the replication process is authentic and true to the church's form. McDonald added that an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant ramp has been installed, keeping the building accessible and up to modern standards.

The Manzanola United Methodist Church qualifies for the Historic Register of Otero County in three of five separate criteria, said Goodwin: The property is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to history; its unique design and construction; and the geographic importance of the property.

"The preservation board is working with Alice and the group," said Goodwin. "After the architect and our project manager was here, we went and looked at the church Friday. We're going to start working on a grant application for an assessment for the church. They can start the planning process of what needs to be done and, depending on what cost and what (plans), we can apply from there."

Goodwin added that despite what some might think, state historical fund grants can be used for churches and religious facilities, as long as the sort of restoration work funded does not have to do directly with religious imagery.

"They can be used for any religious facility," Goodwin said. "They can only not be used in the case that you have, say, a religious stained glass or a mural that depicts a religious scene. But they can be used for everything else."

"If you've not been inside that church, I really would encourage everybody to go see that," said McDonald.

cburney@ljtdmail.com