Since 1872, Hobart First United Methodist Church has anchored the northwest corner of 4th and East Streets, two blocks from Main Street. The brick walls, soaring arched stained-glass windows, and four-story crenellated tower of its current building – built in 1917 – signal the church’s prominence. Motivated by the structure’s centennial and guided by our Sacred Places Indiana program, the congregation turned to its historic building for inspiration in renewing its commitment to community service.
The church traces its roots back to the nearby Deep River Mission founded in 1835, and later to itinerant pastors who served the early European settlements in northwest Indiana in the mid-nineteenth century. By 1871, there were enough worshipers near Lake George to warrant construction of the first Methodist Episcopal Church at 4th and East, a reserved Italianate brick building with a tall white steeple.
Around the turn of the last century, Hobart’s booming brickmaking industry attracted a growing population. In 1916 – just 44 years after building the first sanctuary – the congregation formed a committee to plan construction of a new church. The June 16, 1916, edition of the Hobart Gazette reported “It will be a church edifice that Hobart can feel proud of, and one in keeping with modern architecture and demands of the community.” Rev. Dr. M.H. Appleby traveled from South Bend to attend laying of the cornerstone on August 19, 1916, where he proclaimed the church “was placed here not merely to serve the members of it, but to be a blessing to all who might be in need of its services.”
That principle of service to the community continues to guide Hobart First UMC today. Through the Sacred Places Indiana program, Pastor Rebecca Smith and church leaders have worked to enhance the institution’s community engagement, strategic partnerships, and space-sharing potential.
The renewed sense of direction resulted in revamping the building’s fellowship hall kitchen for commercial use, dedicating a new music and arts enrichment center, designating a Cub Scouts room and a space for holistic health services.
Repairing stained-glass windows and removing yellowed plexiglass topped the congregation’s preservation goals for the building. Von Gerichten Art Glass Company of Columbus, OH, originally designed the stained-glass windows, made up of geometric patterns and gothic arches. Daylight floods the 100-year-old sanctuary once again through windows protected with new vented, clear glass. A grant from the Efroymson Family Fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation supported the rehab.
Assisted by a grant from Indiana Landmarks’ Partners in Preservation program, the congregation of Hobart First UMC nominated the church to the National Register of Historic Places. Read more at www.chicagotribune.com.
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