Foundation work is under way in preparations for the construction of a new Hickory Plains United Methodist Church after last year’s devastating fire.

"We are so grateful," Rev. Debbye Harrison said.

Harrison said plans were approved and digging of the foundation has begun. She said there is talk of the church having a basement, due to contractors having to dig five feet to reach solid bedrock for solid footing. Harrison said this is due to the previous structure being there since the 1800s.

"There is not a basement," Harrison said. "It is just an old historical building site. We are better preparing for future generations."

With the exception of a few minor changes, Harrison said the overall structure will be the same. She said the church will be built on the same location, between the highway and cemetery. The biggest change will be the kitchen, which will now be located at the back of the church rather than the front.

"We modernized it as much as we could," Harrison said. "But we are trying to keep our country charm."

According to Harrison, the construction of the $500,000 building is overseen by Excell Construction of Pine Bluff.

Harrison said the congregation currently meets at the Crossroads Baptist Church, which disband shortly before the fire.

"They were gracious enough to let us use it," Harrison said.

The church, which was more than 150 years old, went up in flames May 30, 2012, after a small storm moved through. According to the National Weather Service, a small lightning storm moved through the Hickory Plains area in Prairie County around 11:30 p.m. A few hours after the storm passed through, the church was seen in flames. The fire was ruled to have been started by lightning.

Harrison said the sanctuary was burned to the ground and the remaining building gutted. She said nearly all the contents were destroyed in the fellowship hall by a roof collapse, if not by the fire itself. According to Harrison, no one was in or near the church at the time.

The original church was built in 1860. After the 1860 church collapsed, it was rebuilt in 1930 with some of the wood, which was salvageable. The fire consumed the 150 year old wood from the original structure and two original benches.

Hickory Plains UMC construction site is located at the intersection of Arkansas Highways 13 and 38.