McGowan Church interior

Materials used for construction of the church were floated in on the Columbia River and milled in McGowan.

CHINOOK — The congregation of St. Mary’s is asking the community to lend a helping hand.

The church is hosting a fundraiser for needed repairs at St. Mary’s McGowan Catholic Church. Church leaders decided to hold a fundraiser for the project after a post-Mass meeting.

St. Mary's Catholic Church

St. Mary’s Catholic Church, a locally famous landmark in McGowan, occupies a location highly exposed to the weather. Ten years after this photos was taken, it now is in need of repairs.

“I thought, ‘Why not us?’” said parishioner Lloyd Thomure.

Parts of the church needing work include the windows, roof, siding, front doors, front stairs, front railing and the stairs’ foundation. Repairs, renovation and replacement will be done to match the church’s current design.

“It’s beyond the church to restore the McGowan. It’s an icon out here; everybody knows it’s here,” Thomure said. “It’d be easy to tear it down.”

The church has “quite a bit” of money already set aside but not enough to get started or cover the needed major repairs, Thomure said.

Church leaders are working on applying to grants for funding. Other fundraisers, garage sales and community outreach will also be used to raise funds.

“The building is our responsibility,” Thomure said.

A “fisherman’s mass” is held Sunday nights from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Weddings and events are also held at the church. Thomure expects events will be held more often at the church after its renovations are completed.

Weathering timber, wrinkling paint

“As we get older, our timber weathers, our paint wrinkles in the cold north wind, and we lose a few shingles here and there,” the fundraising page states. “The day has come where my body cannot stand up against the forces of nature anymore.”

St. Mary McGowan is located near a one-time Chinook Indian village, and one of Lewis and Clark’s camping spots.

The church was built in 1904 after a Catholic community was established in the mid 1800s. Church builder PJ McGowan’s great-grandson Bill Gavin regularly attends mass at the church. Bill’s wife Cherrie Garvin, arranges flowers for the church.

“It’s such a cool little church,” Bill Garvin said. “We want to do anything we can to preserve it.”

Garvin said he’s thrilled about the restoration fundraiser.

“I’m optimistic people will step up,” Bill Garvin said. “It’s a project that’s well worth it.”

Park with three stories

The 114-year-old church is designed with late Victorian Gothic style, from its windows and doors, to its roof and bell tower.

“It’s fun to see the different layers of history and see people delve into it,” Garvin said.

A park surrounding the church features canoes and information about the Chinook village, Lewis and Clark expedition, and McGowan church settlement.

“The park is really dedicated to those three stories and all the future layers that will come,” Bill Garvin said.

Anyone can donate to the online fundraiser at Donations can also be mailed to St. Mary’s Seaview location at 4700 Pacific Way Seaview, WA 98644. Questions about the fundraiser should be directed to 360-642-2002.

“It is a tradition for us to share what we have and I have faith that will continue,” the fundraising page states. “I hope you oblige a plea from an old tired building in need, so we may all look with hope for our future.”

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