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First United Methodist Church (First Methodist Episcopal Church)

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First Methodist Episcopal Church
1912–1914, Fulton and Butler. 1958, Sunday school, A. Hansel Fink. North side of 5th Ave. between 11th and 12th sts.
  • (West Virginia Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
  • First United Methodist Church (First Methodist Episcopal Church) (Ed Wright)

Faced with yellow-gray Cleveland sandstone and covered with a bright red tile roof, this impressive Gothic Revival mass is highlighted by twin 100-foot corner towers recessed from the facade that they flank. When the church was built, the minister proudly announced that the towers were “reproductions of the Magdalen [ sic] towers of London.” If so, he had seen Magdalene through a glass darkly, with double vision, and with all too shallow a draught of geography. The famous Perpendicular Gothic tower (only one) at Magdalene College in Oxford (not London) is far taller, but these twin charlatans almost do it two better with their top-heavy proliferation of finials and crockets.

The minister also had strong opinions about interior arrangements. In an effort to discourage latecomers and to ensure that the congregation would sit near the front, he directed the architect to locate the chancel between the main entrances in the tower bases. To get a seat in the rear, one had to walk down the entire aisle in full and embarrassing view of those already seated. The auditorium, lit by three huge art glass windows and a large stained glass dome above, employs the Akron plan, typical of many early-twentieth-century Protestant churches. In this arrangement, screens separating the Sunday school assembly room from the auditorium can be removed to accommodate overflow crowds. The original parsonage is connected to the sanctuary. At first glance it appears part of the church itself, but a closer look reveals its more domestic scale and arrangement.

J. Charles Fulton, of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, designed many Methodist churches in West Virginia, as well as three county courthouses. At the time of this commission, his firm was also working on the First Presbyterian Church a block away. Huntington's First United Methodist and Charleston's Christ Church United Methodist ( CH30), which also has a tower based on Magdalene, are among his largest ecclesiastical projects. The Huntington church shows Fulton at his most florid, although the minister seems to have been equally responsible.

Writing Credits

S. Allen Chambers Jr.

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