In 1874 a small group of parishioners at the First Methodist Church in downtown New Castle, Pennsylvania, broke away to start their church on the East Side of the city. They purchased property on Pearson Street and started holding outdoor services in what they called the National Holiness Camp. A small church, known as the Second Methodist Church but often referred to as the “Little Gem,” was erected in 1875. The structure was lost to a fire in 1884 and a new church – renamed as the Epworth Methodist Episcopal Church – was opened at the same location in 1886. The church was named in honor of the small town of Epworth in central England, where Methodist Church founders John and Charles Wesley were born. Additions were made to the building in 1894 and again in 1911.
In late 1899 the congregation organized a small mission church on the South Side for the immigrant workers of the tin mills and other nearby factories. The effort was led by the Reverend A. O. Stone and the first service of the so-called Fifth Ward Methodist Church was held on Sunday, January 7, 1900. The Reverend Charles W. Foulke took charge of the congregation in September 1900. The fifty members initially met in a rented building, but soon built a small church on East Reynolds Street (at South Mill Street). This small edifice was quickly outgrown and the congregation decided to build a larger church on property they purchased one block east.
The New Castle News of Wednesday, May 8, 1901, reported, “The Fifth-Ward Methodist congregation will hereafter be known as the Grace Methodist church. That was decided by a vote, at the regular annual congregational meeting… The Grace Methodist congregation is now in a very flourishing condition and the new church building will soon be erected. Rev. C. W. Foulke, the energetic pastor, has already made arrangements for the payment of the entire indebtedness resting on the lot, and ground will soon be broken for the foundations of the new edifice. This lot is situated at the intersection of Reynolds and Agnew streets…”
The small Grace Methodist congregation initially thrived in its new house of worship, but soon faced decline as the mills closed and people migrated out of the area. The congregation held its last service on Sunday, July 28, 1929. The church was then legally dissolved and many of its members rejoined the Epworth Methodist Episcopal Church. The Grace Methodist building on East Reynolds Street was sold to become the new home of the St. George Greek Orthodox Church.
Meanwhile, the Epworth congregation on Pearson Street was planning to build a new church in the triangle at the intersection of East Washington Street and Butler Avenue. Prominent politician and local attorney George T. Weingartner took charge as chairman of the Building Committee and the W. G. Eckles Company of New Castle was hired to draw up the plans. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Friday, November 10, 1929, and work soon got underway. A deal was reached to sale the old building on Pearson Street to the congregation of the First Pentecostal Church, who would take formal possession as soon as the new Epworth Church was opened.
The cornerstone of the magnificent stone structure, featuring several floors and a full basement, was laid in place on Sunday, July 27, 1930. A day earlier the New Castle News had this to say, “Another epoch in the splendid history of Epworth Methodist Episcopal church will be marked Sunday afternoon at three o’clock, when the corner stone of the new church will be laid at the corner of East Washington Street and Butler Avenue. For this impressive service, fraught with more than ordinary meaning to the members of the church, Epworth has called back one of her own sons, Rev. Norris A. White, district superintendent of the Jamestown District, who will deliver the sermon of the day… The services Sunday afternoon will be in charge of Rev. S. L. Maxwell, pastor of the church, but many other Methodist pastors will be present to assist.”
The church, which cost $250,000, was finally completed after eighteen months of work and was formally dedicated during a joyous ceremony held on Sunday, July 12, 1931. The New Castle News of that day provided some details about the impressive structure with, “The church is built of Briar Hill sandstone from the quarries at Glenmont, O., which is used in the main body of the church, while Indiana stone was used for the trim. The roof covering is of variegated slate, laid in an artistic manner and helps greatly to give a pleasing effect in combination with the stone… Probably the most outstanding feature is the quality of the exterior design is the solidity of the construction… In the rear of the main auditorium on the first floor is Grace chapel, named after the Grace M. E. Church, which was recently consolidated with the Epworth congregation… The people of the Epworth church are to be congratulated on having one of the most well equipped churches in the city.”
The congregation grew at the new location and expanded steadily in the coming years. In June 1949 the church celebrated its 75th anniversary and announced it was now debt free. The congregation grew again when the members of the Christ Methodist Church (formerly known as the Italian Methodist Church), located on South Mill Street, were absorbed when that church was closed in the summer of 1965. After a national reorganization in 1968 the congregation took the new name of Epworth United Methodist Church.
Epworth United Methodist Church marked its 100th anniversary with a week-long celebration culminating on Sunday, October 6, 1974. The congregation, which is very involved in community affairs and food banks, continues to thrive with over 200 members at its prominent location “at the triangle.” In 2014 the church marked 140 years of proud existence.
In 1874 a small group of Methodist parishioners organized themselves on the East Side of New Castle. The purchased property on Pearson Street and started holding outdoor services in what they called the National Holiness Camp. A small church, known as the Second Methodist Church, was erected in 1875 but was lost to a fire in 1884. A new structure (shown above), renamed as the Epworth Methodist Episcopal Church, was opened at the same location in 1886. (Aug 2013) Full Size
The cornerstone marking the date of construction. (Aug 2013)
The old Epworth Methodist Church on Pearson Street is currently home to the Solid Rock Ministries. (Aug 2013)
In the late 1920’s the Epworth congregation began plans to build a larger church in the triangle at the intersection of East Washington Street and Butler Avenue. The magnificent stone structure (shown above), designed by the W. G. Eckles architectural firm, was formally dedicated on Sunday, July 12, 1931. (c1930) Full Size
Epworth Methodist Church near twilight. (May 2013) Full Size
(May 2013) Full Size