First Eureka Springs Church
The congregation of St. James’ Church was the first church congregation to be organized in Eureka Springs — just two years after the town of Eureka Springs was incorporated in 1883. Organization occurred through the efforts of the Reverend J. J. Vaulx of Fayetteville, Arkansas, who held services once a month for several years. During this period, a frame chapel was built on Mountain Street. Regular organization was effected on September 15, 1887. The Rev. D. S. C. M. Potter, D. D., assumed charge of St. James’ on December 14, 1887.
From Classroom To Nave
In January, 1889, when the new brick schoolhouse was built, St. James’ parish was presented with the old Cromer school building (the present-day home for St. James’ congregation). The building was remodeled and became the permanent home of the St. James congregation. During this time the city was at the height of prosperity and St. James’ was a thriving parish. St. James’ Church was formally consecrated on Holy Innocents Day in 1913.
The town declined in population after the first World War and regular services at St. James’ declined with it. With no resident priest and no regular services, the Church deteriorated until 1946. In 1947, a handful of faithful Episcopalians, many of whom had recently moved to Eureka Springs, gave their time, labor, and money to recondition the dilapidated church. In 1948, the diocese instituted a resident priest at St. James.
Devastation and Rebuilding
On August 24, 1962, a disastrous fire ravaged the Church, completely destroying the pipe organ (the second oldest in Arkansas), the rood screen, a portion of the building and most of the furnishings. Fortunately, the loss was partially covered by insurance. On September 12 the congregation decided to rebuild the Church, meanwhile holding services at a temporary chapel at Lake Lucerne. On Easter Day, April 14, 1963, the first service was held in the renovated Church.
The Church building was enlarged in 1983, when a larger sacristy and an undercroft kitchen were added. The congregation has grown significantly in the past 20 years — enough to support three services on Sunday and a mid-week service. The Rev. Edie Bird served as Vicar from 1999 until July 2008. St. James’ provided space for The Lane House (now known as the Main Stage) outreach ministry for troubled teens in Eureka Springs, in the parish house next door to the Church. After the Lane House (now also known as Main Stage) purchased a property on Main Street in 2004, St. James reclaimed the Lane House building for office and parish meeting space, renaming it the St. James’ House. As extensive renovation of the building progressed, the church offices were opened there in December 2004.