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Methodist Episcopal Church, Greenfield, OH

February 9, 2016

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Greenfield, Indiana and Greenfield, OH are equidistant from Cincinnati and in its market area for architectural services, which may account for the similarities in their respective Methodist churches. The lantern and the pivotal polygonal hinge at the corner are so familiar that the architects are likely to have been Brown, Burton & Davis. BB&D’s signature style includes both of these prominent features, especially the cupola or lantern, which can be found from Massachusetts to Nebraska and South Dakota.

Though their website makes no mention of an architect, the Greenfield UMC is clearly proud of this building, their seventh, though its predecessor figures in the story:

By 1900 a larger church was needed. Edward Lee McClain proposed the building of a church with facilities for social and institutional work. A site was purchased on the corner of Fourth and South Streets, and on November 11, 1902 the cornerstone was laid for the first institutional church known in Ohio.

Institutional features included reading rooms in the basement, two fully equipped bathing departments, each containing Turkish, Russian, shower, tub and plunge baths, lavatory, lockers and dressing rooms, and a splendidly equipped gymnasium.

The Institutional Methodist Church was dedicated June 6, 1904, which also marked the 100th anniversary of Methodism in the Greenfield area. Great revivals occurred during this golden era of the church, with membership at about 1,000.

A souvenir program noted the church’s beauty: “In addition to the fine ornamental windows, handsome domes and the windows donated to the Sunday School, we have been very fortunate in having presented to us three most beautiful figure windows, all executed by the Tiffany Studios of New York.”

“GREENFIELD’S CALAMITY” was the headline in the Greenfield Republican of May 1, 1910 . The newspaper described how “the First M.E. Church, the pride of the city and one of the finest church edifices in the state,” was wiped out by fire, with the loss set at more than $100,000.

The present Methodist Church was built on the foundation of the church that burned. Work commenced in May 1911 and was completed in October 1912.

The new church was furnished in a style similar to that of the previous building, with art glass by J. & R. Lamb of New York and a pipe organ installed by the Estey Organ Company of Brattleboro, Vermont.

We may be inclined to associate “institutional” churches with major urban areas: New York City, Pittsburgh or Chicago. So the presence of a church with institutional features in a community the size of Greenfield is remarkable. Compound that with its superior maintenance makes this building a candidate for special treatment in the project.

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This view from the balcony catches part of the moveable partition that is open into what may have been the Sunday School.

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