- Available in: Hear The Organ
Dr. Neufeld will give three fifteen-minute organ demonstrations at 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m.
Church records show that First Congregational Church got its start in the log cabin of its founder, James T. Gifford. It’s a landmark that existed only three blocks from the current church structure. The church’s present building – its third- was constructed at the corners of Chicago and Center Streets in 1889 at a cost of $35,000. Constructed with red pressed brick and brownstone trim, the interior was laid out as a “church in the round,” or the “Akron” style popular at the time. The sanctuary included an organ with over 2,500 pipes – an instrument that still ranks as one of the largest in the Fox Valley. The large seating capacity of First Congregational Church soon made it a community auditorium on par with the current Hemmens Cultural Center.
Jane Addams, Booker T. Washington, and John Dewey were among the notables who spoke in the building. The sanctuary also served as the sight of high school graduations and other community functions. Post-World War II growth led to the demolition of the eastern portion of the building and the construction of an education wing in its place. The new facility also included a chapel, a new office, and a fellowship hall.
Following a million-dollar fundraising effort during 2008-2009, the exterior of the education wing was redone to match the architecture of the existing original church. New washrooms were added and classroom configurations changed. But more than bricks and mortar mark the vibrancy of this congregation. It has been active in the city’s food pantry, Soup Kettle, and Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS), and was instrumental in securing a new building for the Community Crisis Center.
While some of its neighboring congregations have relocated outside the downtown area, First Congregational sees its mission fulfilled by remaining in its historic building and neighborhood.
The First Congregational United Church of Christ building was designed by Elgin architect Clarence Styles in the Richardsonian Romanesque style with its massive keystone carved windows. Andrew Magnus, the Elgin builder, completed the building in 1889 at the corner of Chicago and Villa Streets. It was the fourth location for the first church of Elgin which was originally organized in the James Gifford cabin.
Stunning stained-glass windows form two sides of the Akron-style sanctuary floor plan. There are 84 stained-glass windows located in the church.
The historic pipe organ was installed in 1893 at a cost of $7,000 and will be played for the first time at Open Elgin. Dr. Neufeld will give three fifteen-minute demonstrations of this King of all instruments at 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m.