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First United Methodist Church

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1952–1956, Harold E. Wagoner. Northeast corner of W. Pike and 2nd sts.

This church, the fifth erected by the congregation, replaces predecessors all built within a hundred feet of each other. After its immediate precursor, a 1907 Romanesque Revival building designed by Wilbur T. Mills of Columbus, Ohio, burned in September 1951, the congregation once again selected an out-of-state architect. Harold E. Wagoner, a Pittsburgh native, obtained his undergraduate degree from Carnegie Institute of Technology and did graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania. After studying at the Ecole Américain des Beaux-Arts at Fontainebleau, he served on the staff of the Methodist Bureau of Architecture but was in independent practice in Philadelphia when he received commissions from Clarksburg and nearby Bridgeport ( HR25), both for Methodist churches. The two buildings, one Gothic in spirit, one Georgian, show the architect's mastery of the two styles and his ability to adapt them to contemporary needs.

The Clarksburg church, essentially a distilled essence of the Gothic, is an understated building that relies on a few carefully located details for its stylistic identity. Broad, plain wall expanses are punctuated mostly by narrow, rectangular windows with only a bit of tracery. The massive corner tower is virtually unadorned, except at the entrance and the corner closest to the street intersection. There a narrow pylon begins an almost imperceptible rise, clearing the tower to emerge in two short octagonal stages that support a slender, lead-covered spire surging upward and terminating in a cross. The arms of the cross face side elevations instead of the facade, an inspired placement since the church, tightly constricted in front, is most often viewed and most easily seen from the sides.

The walls of the long nave and shallow transepts are faced with sandstone trimmed in limestone and are covered with a dark red tile roof. Inside, the sanctuary has stone walls and an exposed wooden ceiling. Above a tall oak reredos, a small rose window is flanked by double windows, creating an unusual and effective focal point in the chancel. A unified series of impressive stained glass windows created by the Willet Studios and installed in 1965 illuminates the interior.

Writing Credits

Author: 
S. Allen Chambers Jr.

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