Centerville First United Methodist Church
Monday, July 22, 2024
 Our Building's History

     In 1846, the year Iowa became a state, the First Methodist Episcopal Church became the first church to be organized in Appanoose County. Six members met at the home of William and Isabel Manson which was located about 1 14 miles south of Centerville. Reverend Hugh Gibson, a circuit rider from the Bloomfield Circuit, led the group.

Six years later a 30'x40' structure was built on the corner of Washington and Haynes for  $800 to become the first Methodist Church building in Centerville. This building was used by the community as well for political meetings and public gatherings. The Justice of the Peace had his office there.

The church grew so by 1868 Centerville became a Station served by a stationary minister instead of a circuit rider. Eight years later the foundation for a new larger church was laid on the southeast corner of Washington and Main. The cornerstone was laid the next year in 1877.

This second church building was finished the following year and was dedicated by Bishop Andrews. The brick structure was 45'x80' and cost $7000. The building had a gallery in the front, a classroom under the gallery and a chapel in the rear of the auditorium. A $400 bell  was installed.

In 1888 the Ladies Aid had the walls and ceiling frescoed for $300. The process took four weeks to complete and the members met at the courthouse during this time.

In 1903 the church met to approve the quarterly conference decision to build a new and   larger building, our present building on the old site. But the pastor had the idea to build a parsonage connected to the church as was common in the East so the lot on the west side   of the street was purchased to accommodate a larger structure.

A contract for the light pressed brick structure with stone trim was made for $24,696 in    1904. The lot cost $4,500 and the foundation cost $6,700. The original estimate for the building   was $40,000, increasing to $47,000 later. The actual cost was $55,000. The  original cornerstone and bell from the first church was placed in the new structure in a    special service in 1905. The following year this church was dedicated on June 17.

A massive pipe organ costing $4,200 with more that 1000 pipes of varying lengths was installed and dedicated in 1909. The organ was later modified to operate on electricity in 1938. In 1915 the entire church was redecorated for over $5,000, making it ready to host    the Annual Conference.

The next major change came in 1951 when the two front stairways to the side balconies   were removed and the pipe organ was replaced with a Baldwin organ that was a memorial  gift. A large cross and altar replaced the pipes and a center aisle was established. The pulpit was moved to one side and a lectern was added to the other to balance the front.

In 1956 a celebration was held for the 50th anniversary. When Dr. F. B. and Esther Leffert donated a house for a new parsonage in 1962 the attached parsonage became church  school rooms and offices. It was named Houston House in memory of benefactor, Frank B. Houston. In 1965 the church spent $12,800 to redecorate the sanctuary and classrooms.

The next major renovation came in 1971. The estimated $99,000 six month project included new classrooms, kitchen and narthex. The side balconies were removed and the back  balcony was rebuilt. New pews, lighting fixtures, carpeting and air conditioning were added    as well as new sidewalks and gutters. The total cost was $140,000. The church members   met at the Drake Avenue Christian Church during the project.

A new sound system was added in 1990 and the elevator was dedicated in 1992.

In September 29, 1996 the 150th anniversary of the First United Methodist Church was commemorated with a day-long celebration and Bishop Wesley Jordan was the guest speaker.

In 2004 the church was found to have structural problems in the roof trusses and moisture problems in the foundation. Noted historic preservationist contractors, Renaissance Restoration, with the IIW Engineering firm corrected the trusses and redirected the water  from the foundation with new gutters and drainage systems.

Meanwhile church members decided to use the time to redecorate the church sanctuary,   back classrooms, narthex and Houston House. Most of the work was done by volunteers,  both young and old, but the sanctuary painting, some carpentry and the laying of the   carpeting was professionally done. The project has come in below the original estimates due to the many man hours donated by the members and community. During the renovation  church services were held at the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

On September 11, 2005 a joyous day-long homecoming celebration was held with morning services, a sit-down dinner, afternoon program and tours for the public.

Melissa Wehrle