RINITY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH (Across from the Broadway Fountain)
History: Trinity United Methodist Church
Our church was formed as a Methodist Church here in Madison in 1811 and was called the St. Johns Methodist Episcopal Church. Circuit riding preachers passed through here and had several churches were they stopped to preach. The original building was located at the corner of Main and East St., and currently houses the St. John United Church of Christ. In 1873 several Methodist Churches in Madison decided to merge their congregations and to build a magnificent structure to the glory of God.
This church, a structure of Gothic influence, is constructed of basic materials: brink, stone, glass and metal. It is said to be the church with the tallest spire in the city of Madison.
The cornerstone was laid in September 9, 1872, and the building was dedicated in June, 1874. The original cost was $30,606, but the church still had to raise $13,5001 The first service held in the building, before it was finished, was a marriage ceremony on September 26, 1873.
Mr. Robert McKim, born in Ireland, an apprentice stonemason, agreed to become the superintendent of construction. He helped finance the building decorative beams, pews, and steeple. The building fabric is a stone foundation, brink construction with stone arches and trimmings. The cornices, pinnacle on the turret, the finial of the spire, and the other molding were fabricated of galvanized iron by John Adams. The foundation was laid by Samuel Liggett, the brickwork by James H. Dorsey, the stone trim, by James Crozier and the John Jager; the steeple construction by John Eckert.
You will notice the high ceilings and the ornate woodwork they used.
The south stairwell goes up 3 stories and then into the bell tower. The bell tower is 212 feet high and is the tallest structure in Madison. The bell was given to the church in 1949 and was hoisted up through the ceiling and put in place.
There is ladder to go up to the next level. There is a second ladder to a higher level and then there are slats nailed to the exterior wall that enable you to climb to the top. Near the top is a metal door large enough to crawl through. This enables roofers to crawl through and hang on gondolas to repair the slate roof.
The Fellowship Hall was placed on the main level because in that day they could not put a basement in the church because the water table was too high. It was also desired to place the sanctuary on the second floor just in case of a flood
The glass in Fellowship hall is the original 1873 frosted “Florentine” glass windows. Stained glass was not available when the church was built.
This is the original 1873 sanctuary. It has wood curtains along the walls and the original very short wood pews. The front of the sanctuary was reconfigured in 1949 to accommodate the pipe organ, but they kept the same style.
These are the original pews, donated by Irish immigrant and philanthropist Robert McKim, and are still in use. Mr. McKim also donated the large ornate beams in the sanctuary’s ceiling a year after the church was in use due to acoustic problems.
Stained glass became available in 1900 and was produced by the Coulter Company in Cincinnati. In 1912, Individuals of the congregation would purchase a window for the church and then their names were placed in the area with red glass at the bottom.
If you look at the very center of the sanctuary ceiling, you will notice a rounded piece of wood that runs the full length of the sanctuary. That piece of wood can be pulled up into the attic with a rope and pulley. This was their 1873 natural air conditioning system. There were 4 chimneys that went through the roof but were later cut off.
Air-driven Pipe Organ
Music has always been a part of Trinity’s tradition, and our first organ was installed in 1897, after the church was built in 1873. Back then, the altar area looked a little different, with the organ pipes occupying the space where we now have our beautiful curtain and cross. There was also a long wooden handle protruding from the floor to the right of the console – it operated the billows in the event of an electrical failure, and the last time we know it was put to use was in 1935, after the power went out just before the final hymn.
In 1950, the mechanical controls for the organ were worn out, and a decision was made to replace them with electric controls, which required a new organ console. That configuration, with the rest of the original organ, remained in service for forty years until 1990 when another upgrade was required after 93 years of faithful service. The need for the new equipment was made known when several repairs made in the 1970’s proved “unreliable” as the old and new parts simply didn’t work well together. The need became completely obvious when the pedal board literally fell apart and had to be held in place with a stack of hymnals.
After a number of fund raisers were held, a new replacement organ was ordered, and a number of changes were made to the sanctuary, including the two “bump-out” walls on the sides of the altar area to accommodate the 2,384 pipes. The 2,384 pipes are arranged in 45 ranks, and control boards for the new instrument were installed.
The pipes range from some that look like a pennywhistle to about the diameter of a telephone pole, and they are both metal and wooden. The wooden ones are square and look like they have a handle from your grandma’s rolling-pin sticking out of the top, but those are for tuning the pipes by moving the end of the box until exactly the right pitch is produced. The metal pipes have little “tabs” at the top that remind me of the coil of metal you got when you opened a coffee can using a key back in the 1950’s, and those too are related to tuning the pipe to the perfect pitch.
The weight of those pipes required a pair of I-beams be installed vertically from the organ loft to the foundation to support the load.
On November 11th, 1990, those attending worship at Trinity were treated to the sounds from our new electric organ, and those attending and listening to our service on the radio have been enjoying the beautiful music ever since.
In 1967 the church built on the 3-story addition to the rear of the church, which stretches out to Main St. It has a full industrial kitchen and dining area in the basement.
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