The United Methodist Church is situated on land that was once owned by Peter Brost. In 1892, he subdivided the land south of the road that was once called Grand Avenue from Glenwood to Broadway. Many different individuals bought lots and built homes but, as late as 1907, the corner lots still stood vacant. The booming development of Lakeview, now part of Chicago, had slowed down.
In 1905, a Methodist Society was organized in a store building at 2965 Evanston Avenue [now 6170 Broadway]. The first pastor was Rev. J.C. Yonker and, in 1906, Rev. J.R. Greening became pastor. As a revivalist, he was able to draw many new people to the church. 1907 began with Rev. J.A. Kettle as pastor and a movement by the 64 members to acquire land and build a church. In 1908, Rev. B.H. Fleming was installed as pastor and the church was built. When Rev. J.W. DeFoe served in the new church, the sunrise prayer meetings helped the church become self sustaining.
The original building had a red brick façade and common brick sides. The ground floor entrance opens to a small landing with a beautiful spindled staircase to the sanctuary and, on the lower floor, to the fellowship hall and kitchen. Before you enter the sanctuary, a foyer allows for a greeting area in front of a stained glass window dedicated to former pastor Benjamin Will. The original interior was dark varnished wood.
The sanctuary you see today was built in 1947 after a fire destroyed a large portion of the building and roof. Saved from the fire were the original pews as well as the stained glass. The primary changes are around the front where the original pipe organ was located. During the fire the organ fell to the basement. Prior to the fire, the side door had been added in the 1930s. For a time during the post-fire construction, the congregation met at the Devon Theater on Broadway. The years from 1909 until 1939 saw a succession of pastors, each of whom contributed something to the gradually expanding church and its mission.
Irene Wallace, a member during Rev. McDonald’s 1918 to 1921 term as pastor, remembers “I was in the eighth grade and, in the early days, we had an organ that had to be pampered. We sat on ugly straight chairs back of the altar and kept our wraps on during the service.” From this recollection we can imagine a limited heating source such as a wood burning or coal burning stove. In the early 1920s, a steam heating plant was installed.
A new era began for this church in 1934 with the pastorship of Benjamin Will, who served for 24 years. At his direction, the red brick church was painted white and given a new name – the Little Country Church of the City. The yard which once held a tennis court was surrounded by a white picket fence and colonial style lamp posts. A new lawn and landscaping followed. These changes made the church and garden an attractive place for weddings.
In 1958, Rev. Will retired and Rev. Ray Blanchard took over. The congregation grew from 200 to 400 members. In 1962, Rev. George F. Lockwood was appointed pastor. In the 1960s, the Edgewater community underwent rapid change including the demolition of many lakefront mansions and their replacement with high rises and four-plus-ones. The density of the blocks along Kenmore and Winthrop was also effected. The church responded with new ministries and activities. The pastors of many area churches joined with some businessmen to create the Edgewater Community Council. Later, the Edgewater Clergy and Rabbi Association was formed to reach across denominational lines and create a dialogue about the many ways to serve the diverse community. In 1975, Rev. John Hudson became pastor. We offer special thanks to Rev. Hudson and his members who have helped us create this special event.