Posted in news on January 6, 2017 12:46 pm EST

Serious Access Issues Solved at Midwest Church

First Presbyterian Church in Centralia, Ill., welcomed members with 14 concrete steps leading into the sanctuary. Now those same visitors, many elderly, will enter with ease.

First Presbyterian Church, Centralia, IL











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TAGS: access, accessibility, historic church, renovation,


By Church Designer Staff

Rev. Stan Martin and Elder Roy Aarons of First Presbyterian Church (FPC) of Centralia, Ill., had to find a way around 14 concrete steps leading into the church's sanctuary. Possible fixes were limited for FPC since the church is an historic building. The congregation was founded before the Civil War in 1856, and the current building was constructed sometime in the 1920s. Defacing an historic, nearly 100-year-old building in the middle of the town was not a viable alternative.

Another problem was the many narrow stairways throughout the inside of the church. These stairs simply could not accommodate stair lifts, and the church leaders felt that the stigma that comes with stair lifts would cause people to avoid them. The church did have an external chair lift, but parts became increasingly difficult to find, repairs became more frequent, and the church staff felt it was necessary to post a person to help with operation. These factors were getting in the way of consistently using the lift. A ramp to the front door was also considered but ruled out as a viable option. To comply with code requirements, Elder Aarons estimated that the ramp would have to "circle the building" to follow all the rules. Not only would that be an inconvenience, but it would detract from the aestherics of the historic building.

"There are people in our community that do not attend church because of [the] steps. The elevator [makes] us accessible for anyone."

—Rev. Stan Martin, First Presbyterian Church of Centralia, Ill.

A solution on multiple levels

The chosen solution to the problem was found in the products of Phoenix Modular Elevator (PME) in Mt. Vernon, Ill. PME provided, in November 2016, a 2,000-pound capacity, ADA/wheelchair approved, commercial-quality elevator to meet the needs of the church. The elevator complies with all applicable codes and will be safe for operation for those that are wheelchair bound or unable to navigate the steps. The elevator buttons are at the proper height, so the church will not have to provide extra help for operation. Martin hopes that the elevator will allow wider access to the church: "There are people in our community that do not attend church because of steps. The elevator will make us accessible for anyone." The elevator will ensure that there is little interruption to the weekly schedule of services, meetings and Bible studies, allowing anyone who wants to attend to now have full access.

Elder Roy Aarons & Rev. Stan Martin

The elevator has the ground floor entrance facing the parking lot, and it reaches two levels within the church. One will access the lower floor, where classrooms and a fellowship area are located, while the other stop accesses the second floor, reserved for additional classrooms, the sanctuary and the church office. The elevator is set exterior to the church, with the hoistway clad in brick to match the rest of the church -- so it doesn't detract from the look of the historic building.

Once the elevator pit was poured and openings for the stops were made, the elevator was lifted by crane into place and was fully functional in less than a week, ready for state inspection.




Learn more about the companies in this story:

Phoenix Modular Elevator



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