The History of our Church
abridged excerpt from:
"Church and City", Nov. 1920 (the Golden Jubilee)
The beginnings of North Church go back to the starting on St.Clair Street in 1859 by Old Stone Church of a mission Sunday School which came to be known as the Wassonville Mission. The Old Stone Church sent out the teachers in an omnibus and, long after the Mission was organized as a Church, continued to furnish workers and support, and provided most of the funds for the present building, Mrs. Flora Stone Mather being the largest contributor.
The Sunday School and Church has worked in three different locations: on St.Clair near Lyman Street, from 1859 to 1867; on Aaron (now E. 36th) Street from 1867 to 1887; and at the present location since 1887.
The church was organized on the 19th of September, 1870, the 50th anniversary of the Old Stone Church, with 51 members. It was named by Dr. Goodrich after the old North Church in Boston. 905 members where reported in 1906.
The Sunday School was at one time one of the largest in the city, having its largest enrollment, over 1,200, at the time of the church's 25th anniversary. Up to 1920, 11 Sunday School superintendents, 6 pastors and one stated supply served the church. A remarkable period was between 1880 and 1906, when Mr. S. P. Fenn (superintendent) and Rev. William Gaston served together.
North has mothered one church, Westminster, and was largely instrumental in the organization of Glenville and South. As a striking example of the large number of members that have been given to the other churches may be mentioned the dismissal at one time of 70 members to Boulevard at the time of its reorganization in 1909.
In 1920, the North Church Parish extended from East 31st to East 55th Streets, between Perkins Ave. and the Lake. This district had a population of 10,000, with roughly 25% being Protestant. The neighborhood was changing towards commercial use. North Church had enlarged the sphere of its activities under the slogan, "An institutional church laboring for the betterment of its neighborhood".
According to a Statement of Situation, submitted to the Presbytery on June 2, 1924, the North Church Parish was identical with Ward 10 of the City of Cleveland, extending from East 26th to East 55th Street between Euclid Avenue and the Lake. The population was 25,000, with roughly 25% being Protestant. North Church was designated as a center of neighborhood ministry and received support from the Church Extension Committee. The budget in 1924 was $13,108.71.
North Church was designed by renowned Cleveland architects Coburn & Barnum and built 1886 to 1887. It measures approx. 112 by 62 feet and, on opening, was reported to seat 1,130 people. The total cost, including furniture and fixture, but not the organ, was $26,000 *).
The Gothic Revival design is reminiscent of a castle, with a short belfry above the main entrance from Superior Avenue. The ground floor houses all the serving facilities and a meeting hall. The sanctuary is on the elevated 1st floor, with a circular dome and surrounded by a subdivided theater-style gallery that originally could be closed off with plush curtains but is now boarded up. This design follows the then popular "Akron Plan" that promoted a flexibility of use not only for worship but also for Sunday School and various community activities.
The interior has been designed and fitted in a very tasteful but modest style. The layout, especially in the basement, has been changed over time and the main entrance is at present rarely used, but most of the original building components, including stained glass windows, are still in place and fairly well preserved. Only the windows in the dome have been replaced by modern ones with plain glass.
North Presbyterian Church is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (1974) with the following description:
This building is a remarkable example of 19th century church architecture, especially unusual in its adaptation of eclectic styles to the specific needs of the individual church (...) The architecture of this building, by the arrangements of the Sunday School rooms around the sanctuary and their expression on the exterior, clearly proclaims its primary concern with church education (...) and does so with an extremely creative handling of the 19th century eclectic idioms.
When you enter the sanctuary at North Church, you feel transported to an otherworldly, protected place. The building is an architectural expression of "A mighty Fortress is our God" and thus very much fitted to the embattled situation of the church in today's neighborhood. To our knowledge there is no other building of this prototype in North Eastern Ohio or anywhere. North Church is unique.
*) The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Oct. 24, 1887
(from the 100th Anniversary Brochure, Nov. 1970, and contributions by Hannemarie Baillie)
September 19, 1870
The church is organized with 51 charter members, all of whom bring their letters from the Old Stone Church. Dr. Anson Smyth serves as pastor for two years. Rev. H. R. Hosington comes and remains for eight years.
November 1, 1870
Dr. William Gaston begins his 27 year pastorate, the period of the pastorate being the period of the phenomenal growth of the church.
October 23, 1887
The present church building is dedicated after 17 years at the 36th Street site. The sermon for the occasion is preached by Dr. Hiram C. Hayden, pastor of the Old Stone Church.
October 19, 1892
Westminster Church is organized with 90 charter members of whom 64 come from North Church.
September 15, 1895
Dr. Gaston preaches a great Silver Anniversary sermon on the Text, Deuteronomy 8:2.
March 3, 1907
Dr. Gaston retires as active pastor and is given the office of Pastor Emeritus by a grateful congregation. He is succeeded by Rev. R. J. MacAlpine in July, 1907
68 members of North Church are given letters of transfer to the Boulevard Church.
Rev. A. M. Lamb becomes pastor of the church until November, 1912. The Rev. Henry L. Geddes accepts the pastorate in February, 1913, and remains until June, 1917.
Daily Vacation Bible School is instituted at North Church.
March 3, 1918
The Dr. Harvey E. Holt begins his pastorate, inaugurating a new and enlarged neighborhood program by the church with financial assistance from the Board of National Missions. It is at that time that we become an aided church.
November 7-14, 1920
The Golden Jubilee is celebrated, Dr. R. J. MacAlpine, pastor from 1907 to 1909, preaching the anniversary sermon.
Rev. A. R. Kinsler, Jr., comes to North Church. Community service programs are inaugurated to meet vital needs of the community.
June 3, 1934
A fund of $12,000 is left to the church by the will of Mrs. Paul McDonald. This fund is used to keep the building in repair.
November 12, 1936
The new organ, purchased from the McDonald Fund, is dedicated.
July 29, 1945
The congregation votes unanimously to discontinue its annual request for aid to the Board of National Missions and becomes entirely self-supporting.
November 11-18, 1945
We celebrate three-quarters of a century in the same neighborhood.
Aftyer 16 years of stated supply, Rev. A. R. Kinsler, Jr., is installed as minister of North Church, his brother, Dr. Francis Kinsler, of Korea, serving as one of the installing officers.
Sunday School starts meeting at the church hours. Mrs. Charles Blunk becomes Parish Worker. Renovation of the entire building takes place covering several years with the congregation raising $25,000.
Boulevard Church closed. Mrs. Vikis comes to us as organist and assists with children's work.
Mrs. A. W. Smith becomesYouth Worker. Sunday night services and Friday night canteens are instituted for youth.
Mrs. John Vikis becomes Director of Daily Vacation Bible School.
New type of program inaugurated and North Church again becomes an aided church. Westminster Church closed.
Friday after-school programs with supper are instituted.
Wednesday after-school programs, Junior Choir, and suppers, aided by the strong and inspiring influence of Mrs. John Vikis, are begun.
Harvey Stuhler leaves $2,000, a basis for an endowment fund.
Alvina Hutter bequeathes the church $10,000 from which the endowment fund is started.
Mrs. Arthur Hommel gives $5,000.
Rev. A. R. Kinsler,Jr., retires. Willson Methodist Church closed. Ninth Reformed Church closed.
Rev. George Hardy becomes stated supply (pastor in 1970).
Rev. Don Gordon becomes stated supply.
The Presbytery decides to stop support and close North Church. Rev. Kenneth Jones is appointed as stated supply for one year only.
Session decides to continue. Rev. Hannemarie Baillie becomes part-time pastor, paid by North Church. The active membership at this time is 55.
North Church celebrates the 125th anniversary. Membership has risen to 75.
Rev. Hannemarie Baillie retires and Rev. Susanne Carter becomes pastor.
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This page prepared by Reinhold Roedig from available materials
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