Wesley United Methodist Church

Portions of the former Wesley United Methodist Church lay scattered Wednesday morning. The church is being demolished as part of a sale agreement to the Ottumwa Community School District. Plans are to convert the site to a parking lot.

OTTUMWA — Demolition of a nearly century-old Ottumwa church began this week, as the site it sits on is destined to become a new parking lot.

Crews began bringing down the former Wesley United Methodist Church on Tuesday, and their work is expected to continue for at least two weeks.

According to the Wapello County Assessor's Office, the church was built in 1931. In 2018, three methodist congregations voted to merge into what's now the Grace Ottumwa Church.

Following that vote, Wesley United Methodist Church and two other churches were sold in 2019.

Earlier this year, despite some public fervor, the Ottumwa Community School District agreed to purchase the property from current owner Frase Company Rentals, LLC.

The agreement for $528,000 included that Frase would pay for asbestos abatement, demolition and site cleanup to make the land construction-ready. The district intends to build a parking lot for the neighboring Ottumwa High School.

The sale includes property at 430 E. Second St. and 108 S. Jefferson St. It was approved by a 6-1 vote of the board in April.

Community members, including those within the Ottumwa Historic Preservation Commission, fought the impending sale and conversion of the site into a parking lot.

In September, the commission's president Dennis Wilhoit said the project is "a quick solution to a parking problem that will have long-lasting negative repercussions for our community's esprit de corps."

While the project advanced anyway, district officials committed to explore nominating the high school building to the National Registry of Historic Places.

The church was not on the registry.

Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at kocker@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

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Kyle Ocker is a Centerville native and award-winning multimedia journalist. Kyle is currently the president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and vice president of the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.

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