The Wood River Valley offers plenty of opportunities to observe Christmas. Services will take place before, during and after Christmas Day. This year, Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Hailey has something special to celebrate on Christmas—the church building is 125 years old.
"The congregation started in 1883," said Father Shawn Carty. "This Christmas is 125 years for the church building."
Carty said the building is one of the oldest church buildings in the valley, and the oldest Episcopal church building in continuous use in Idaho. It was built in 1885 and the first service was held on Christmas of that year.
The service was reported at the time in the Wood River Journal. The newspaper reported that 62,000 bricks were used to construct the building and the last brick was laid on Nov. 28, 1885. The first service on Christmas Day took place at 11 a.m.
"Having been a part of other church building projects, it's amazing that back then, the church was finished in two years," Carty said. "The church was built to withstand time. We are the beneficiaries of that."
The Wood River Journal reported that the Rev. Israel Osborn was the first priest at the church. He procured evergreens from the mountains for decoration at the first service.
"The total cost of construction for the building and furnishings was $4,000," Carty said. "An interesting fact reported in the Wood River Journal of that day was the city of Hailey was lit for the first time with 250 lamp bulbs."
Carty said part of this anniversary is to point out to the congregation how people have endured for 125 years, experiencing lots of ups and downs.
"During this time, people have survived the Depression, two world wars and the collapse of the silver industry in the Wood River Valley just after the church was built," Carty said. "Had the church been planned to be built later, it may not exist today."
Carty said the anniversary puts things in perspective in the current tough economic times. The Emmanuel Episcopal Church Christmas Day service will take place at 10 a.m. with Christmas carols and a Holy Eucharist service.