It’s a building that has had a close relationship with two successive versions of the Richland County Courthouse.
When St. John’s Evangelical Church, now St. John’s United Church of Christ, was built between 1910 and 1912, it was towered over by the Victorian era Courthouse, its next door neighbor to the west. Across the street was a smaller church, designated in maps of the era as the “First United Brethren Church.”
After the demolition of the history courthouse in the 1960s, St. John’s suddenly appeared for travelers driving eastbound on Park Avenue East.
The congregation of St. John’s dates back to January 1, 1845, when a group of German-speaking members of the local Lutheran and German Reformed churches decided to launch an evangelical church. At the outset there were 40 charter members, enough to consider immediately building a building on the southeast corner of South Mulberry and First Street.
Within 25 years, St. John’s had 103 families and felt the need for expansion yet again. The church was moved and another constructed on the same spot. That church, completed in 1871, is now used by St. Peter’s School.
On October 30, 1910, the cornerstone was set for the current “Tudor Gothic” building at the corner of Park Avenue East and Franklin. Finished and opened in May 1912, it has an interior of golden oak woodwork, a large glass dome, and with original seating for 1,200.
The cost, including purchasing the lot, was over $52,000.
The sanctuary of St. John’s has curved pews, thereby giving each seat a great view of the speaker. The congregation has a strong musical tradition and is home to a large pipe organ which is played each Sunday during the church’s traditional service.
At present, St. John’s holds two services each Sunday, both of which can be viewed on the church’s Facebook Page.
Sources: Mansfield/Richland County Public Library, Mansfield News Journal, St. John’s United Church of Christ; Photo: 1812Blockhouse