The historic Unitarian Church in Keokuk Iowa was dedicated on Dec. 2, 1874 and is the oldest standing church in the city. Unitarian Churches were known for their use of logic and reason rather than blind faith in their interpretations of the Bible and this attracted many freethinkers of the time. Among the prominent early church members was a physician and lawyer named Samuel Freeman Miller. Miller, an optimist and progressive rationalist, helped found Keokuk's First Unitarian Church in 1853 and personally drafted its articles of incorporation. Shortly thereafter his business partner, Lewis Reeves, died after contracting Asiatic Cholera. Just a few months later, Samuel Miller's wife Lucy died of "consumption" which is what we now know as Tuberculosis. This series of tragedies left him a single father of 3 daughters in addition to now being the sole proprietor of his law practice. His mastery of Law earned the attention of the top courts in the nation and as a result he was later appointed to the United States Supreme Court just after the start of the American Civil War in 1862 by Abraham Lincoln. He served in that role for 28 years, becoming one of the most influential Justices to serve in that capacity until his death in 1890 following which his funeral service was held in this church.
The Unitarian Church remained active here for well over 100 years before ultimately closing its doors some time around 2000, at which time there had been a Christian TV station broadcasting from the basement. Since then the building has been allowed to slowly succumb to the elements. A valiant preservation effort was mounted around 2011 to help restore the building. They removed the windows in an effort to safely store them during roof maintenance. But the maintenance never came and the windows have been left piled up inside which has left the building even more open to the elements as a result. It seems that the preservation of this building never gained traction and the site is increasingly threatened by demolition. The city has been trying to take ownership of the building for years in order to demolish it, despite an engineering survey which declared the structure otherwise in good structural condition aside from a roof that is in the advanced stages of a slow motion collapse. I would normally consider obfuscating the identity of such a vulnerable location as this but knowing its on its last legs, hope for preservation is quickly running out. There is a facebook page dedicated to the site's preservation but it hasn't been updated in over a year.
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