Bethel Sanctuary, Inman, McPherson County, KS
1993 Charles E. Peterson Prize, Honorable Mention
Significance: The Bethel Sanctuary, built in 1880, is the sole remaining example of the Mennonite "Prayer House" in North America. The structure was constructed by immigrants from the Molotschna Colony in the Ukraine, who settled in the Midwest in 1874. The building's form is a synthesis of the Mennonite experience in Northern Europe. The prototype prayer houses were built in 1768 in the Vistula Delta in North Poland. As the Mennonites moved, they took their architectural heritage along with them. In 1789, the Mennonites settled in South Russia and established communities, which later emigrated to North America. The long rectangular form originated in the Flemish house-barn, where the early Mennonites worshiped. The adobe block construction, called "pautze', is an adaptation of construction methods used in the Vistula Delta. According to historic accounts, the Bethel Sanctuary was built as a community effort in two weeks. The Mennonites used locally available materials such as stone, earth, straw, manure, and lumber brought by railroad. The building originally consisted of one long room, the sanctuary, which conformed to typical free church seating arrangements, and two smaller rooms separated from the sanctuary by an adobe partition. One of these rooms served as a nursery, the other as a meeting room for the elders. Men and women each had a separate entrance to the building. A large, central adobe hearth, since removed, provided warmth. The Bethel Sanctuary was adapted for residential use in 1897. Interior wood-frame partitions were constructed to subdivide the sanctuary. The building was occupied until 1980.
Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: N114
Survey number: HABS KS-66
Building/structure dates: 1880 Initial Construction