A Brief Historical Sketch of Our Buildings
LOG BUILDING 1826–1841
OLD CHURCH 1841–1885
On May 22, 1826, George and Lucy Richey purchased Lot 167 for $61.00. It became the land on which the original crude log building was erected by twenty men of the congregation (where the Campbell house now stands). After attempts to remodel the log building, records indicate that a more permanent new structure was built on the site of the old one in 1841.
THE RED BRICK CHURCH 1885–1916
In 1884 the trustees purchased corner Lot 165 and immediately started to build a new church. This red brick church was dedicated on February 1, 1885 (cost of $12,500) and named the Kirkwood Avenue Christian Church.
Apparently the new brick church had no back door. According to legend, the minister would jump out the window near the chancel and run around to the outside of the church to shake hands with the congregation as they left the sanctuary.
On New Year’s Eve, 1916, fire sirens competed with traditional bells and whistles that night as the Kirkwood Avenue Christian Church burned to the ground. The cause of the fire is unknown. On New Year’s Day, 1917, the church board met to plan a replacement.
CAMPBELL HOUSE (Located on the east side of church)
At the same time as the new brick church was being built (1884), the smaller church was torn down and the present Campbell House was constructed using much of the material from the old church. It served for many years as the parsonage before it began its second career as the annex to our larger building. Between the Campbell House and the church of 1885 stood the Horace Blakely house, which was later moved when the present church was rebuilt after the fire. The current sanctuary is located on the spot occupied by the Blakely house.
FIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF BLOOMINGTON 1919–Present
On September 28, 1919, a dedicatory service was held for the newly named First Christian Church of Bloomington. The newspaper reported that the church was dedicated debt free of the $100,000 building cost (although no official accounts indicate it cost that much to build).
The chancel area was not precisely as it is now. The early baptistery was at first beneath where it is now located, on a level with the chancel, and the choir sat above this baptistery. The choir, in fact, has moved around several times. From its place over the baptistery, it moved to where our present communion table stands. Then it was seated on the lectern side of the chancel, and finally went to the balcony where it has been ever since.
An interesting note about the new building is that it contained a gymnasium on the second floor (Great Hall today). The youth could use this facility for basketball games. As part of improvement and rearrangement of the chancel area in 1947, a limestone pulpit replaced the much-used wooden one made in 1919. Our limestone pulpit was literally carved out of the nearby quarries. Taken out as a solid piece weighing 3,000 pounds, its design was planned and executed by one of our members. Steel beams had to be set on bedrock to support its weight.
I shot an arrow into the air . . . .
A light-hearted incident occurred at a June wedding in 1947. The Rev. Douglas Rae, minister of the First Baptist Church asked to decorate the sanctuary for the ceremony. Noted for his imagination, Dr. Rae decided to use mostly candles and constructed three large wheels, six feet in diameter, which were to be hung over the center aisle as chandeliers. The problem was that their only available support had to be the crossbeams of our Gothic ceiling, sixty feet overhead. Undaunted, he shot arrows between the beams and the ceiling, first attaching threads to the arrows. Once over, the threads were fastened to string, the string to rope, until a heavy rope was eventually threaded through the chain to which he had attached the chandeliers. It was a creative idea, and the first two arrows performed as scheduled. The third lodged itself firmly into one of the beams, and there it stayed for twenty-one years, threatening potential calamity every time the organ gave a thunderous blast. It never fell of its own accord, and finally, in 1967, a crew of men got a very long ladder and brought it safely back to earth.
MEMORIAL CHAPEL 1952–1991
The Memorial Chapel was designed to honor the men and women who in the past labored in behalf of the church. A bronze plaque at the back of the room listed the names of all the people memorialized. The chapel was created by enclosing the “overflow” area of seating next to the left of the chancel.
A limestone plaque set in the paneled wall of the chancel was the focal point. Carved by Domenick Mazzullo, a master workman, it portrays Jesus and two children, thus emphasizing the scriptural truth that only those who become as little children shall enter the kingdom of heaven.
Equipped with an organ, this chapel was suitable for small weddings and devotional services as well as just a quiet place to meditate. Another feature of the chapel was a shekinah light. The flickering flame of the shekinah (Hebrew word for presence) lamp was a familiar sight to Jesus to whom it symbolized the eternal presence of God. The decoration on this particular lamp was the tablet of the Ten Commandments. Today this chapel has been incorporated into an expanded chapel/gathering space, but the limestone plaque and wood paneled walls are still in evidence.