History Nebraska Blog

Baled Hay Church

Laffin Baled Hay Church

Pilgrim Holiness Church or "Baled Hay Church" by Diane Laffin, Architectural Historian/Preservation Associate

The Pilgrim Holiness Church is located in Arthur, the county seat of Arthur County. It is a significant, and rare, representation of vernacular architecture within the Sandhills of west central Nebraska. By using building materials and resources for its wall construction–in this case, prairie grasses and domestic hays– from the area where the church is located, this type of folk architecture ties the building contextually to geographic features and environmental aspects of its surroundings. Planned by a group of Congregationalists in 1927, and built in 1928, the one-and-a-half story, front-gable building has two-feet-thick load-bearing walls comprised of baled rye straw “bricks” clad with plaster on the interior and stucco on the exterior. The rear of the church houses the former pastor’s residence, which includes a kitchen, a parlor, and a stairway leading to two small sleeping rooms. Services ceased in the mid-1960s. The Arthur County Historical Society owns the building and this organization has overseen restoration work that has occurred periodically since the mid-1970s.

The Pilgrim Holiness Church was listed to the National Register in 1979.




Murphy, David. "Baled Biomass," in Marcel Vellinga (ed), Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World. Second Edition, (vol. 1 Theories and Principles, section IV Materials and Building Resources) Oxford UK: Bloomsbury Academic, forthcoming, 2022.

Murphy, David. “Bold and Daring: The Lone Oak,” Nebraska History 87:1 (Spring 2006): 10-17; and reprinted, The Last Straw: The International Quarterly Journal of Straw Bale and Natural Building, Issue 58 (June 2007): 27-31.

Spencer, Janet Jeffries, and David Murphy. “Pilgrim Holiness Church,” Arthur County, Nebraska. National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form, 1979. (ID 79001434). National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.

Welsch, Roger L. "Sandhill Baled-Hay Construction." Keystone Folklore Quarterly (Spring, 1970), pp. 16-34.

Become a History Nebraska Member Today

Learn More