A tree leans on the roof of Fort Sherman Chapel in Coeur d’Alene during the wind storm on Wednesday. The chapel was built in 1880 by the U.S. Army. (Courtesy Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

By Greg Mason, Spokesman Review 

High winds buffeting the area Wednesday caused a tree to fall onto Coeur d’Alene’s oldest church, resulting in apparent roof and structural damage, according to the Museum of North Idaho.

The Fort Sherman Chapel in Coeur d’Alene was likely struck by the tree early Wednesday morning, which “just caused everything to shift and tilt and bow,” said Britt Thurman, the museum’s executive director. The museum, which owns the chapel, is still assessing the extent of the damage.

“It definitely is going to be a while before it is able to be used again,” she said. “Because of the pressure from the tree, we can’t even get the doors open to get inside and assess any interior damage.”

A tree leans on the roof of Fort Sherman Chapel in Coeur d’Alene during the wind storm on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. The chapel was built in 1880 by the U.S. Army. (Courtesy Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

Thurman said the museum is reaching out to companies to have the tree removed as soon as possible. They hadn’t had much luck as of Wednesday afternoon, as many companies were busy helping homeowners in similar situations due to Wednesday’s wind storm, she said.

Built in 1880 by the Army, the Fort Sherman Chapel served as a church, a school and a library. The Army abandoned the fort in 1900, but the chapel continued to be used for church services well into the 20th century. The chapel and other surviving fort buildings were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The chapel was donated to the Museum of North Idaho in 1984, according to the museum. The floors were refinished through an Idaho Heritage Trust grant in early 2020.

The chapel is rented out by private organizations and groups for meeting space. One such group discovered the fallen tree around 6:45 a.m. Wednesday, Thurman said.

Thurman said she is going to contact affected groups, as well as patrons with scheduled weddings, to inform them of the situation. She said the museum has made contact with an insurance representative and is waiting to hear back.

“To be able to repair and fix this chapel, we’re going to require a lot of community support and donations to be able to pay for it,” Thurman said.

Donations can be made on the museum website, museumni.org; by calling (208) 664-3448; or mailed to P.O. Box 812, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83816.