Free tour First United Methodist Church
Where: 77 W. Washington St., 312.236.4548
When: Monday: No Tour; Tuesday-Saturday: 2 p.m.; Sunday: 9:45 a.m. & 12:15 p.m.
For groups of 10 or more please contact the Church office. This tour requires climbing a flight of stairs to reach the Sky Chapel.
The carillon playlist changes monthly.
Free tour First United Methodist Church History
First United Methodist Church is the oldest church in Chicago. It was founded by Methodist circuit riders in 1831, six years before the City of Chicago was incorporated.
For more than 175-years, the congregation has gathered for worship in five buildings. Its first services were held in the homes of its members. But in 1834 the growing congregation built a log cabin north of the Chicago River.
Four years later, Chicago’s first Methodists floated the cabin across the river and rolled it on logs to its present site at the corner of Washington and Clark Streets. A conventional brick church with a 148-foot spire replaced the log cabin in 1845.
That building served the church until 1858 when the congregation dedicated a four-story, multi-use structure that stood until the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Days after the fire the congregation voted to stay and dedicated another building that served the congregation until 1924 when the present skyscraper was dedicated. During the two years of construction, the original name “City Temple” was changed to “The Chicago Temple.” It was then the tallest building in Chicago.
When planning the current building church leaders followed Chicago architect Daniel Burnham’s dictum “Make no little plans.
They engaged the renowned architectural firm of Holabird & Roche and gave them instructions to design a building that would be “Gothic in structure, with a churchly tower, a radiant cross at its pinnacle.”
Now the congregation stills gathers for worship in the first-floor sanctuary that seats about 500 people. The focal point is the altar with its wood carving that depicts Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem.
Stained glass windows
Above the altar is a stained glass window that tells the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The windows along the east and west walls portray events described in the Old and New Testaments.
On the west wall there is one window that depicts downtown Chicago and the Chicago Temple. Next to it is a window that honors institutions in the Chicago area that the congregation helped found, including Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Northwestern University, Wesley Hospital and the Methodist Home for Children.
Located on the second floor are the Dixon Chapel, James Parlor, the Heritage Room and church offices. The third and fourth floors house the classrooms and nursery, a conference room and a choir room.
The Sky Chapel
Each year thousands of people make the pilgrimage by two elevators and a set of stairs to the Sky Chapel located under the spire 400 feet above the streets of the city. Dedicated on Easter morning 1952, the chapel was a gift from the Walgreen family in memory of Mr. Charles R. Walgreen.
The chapel’s altar is a companion piece to the altar in the sanctuary but in the carving on this altar Jesus is shown weeping over the city of Chicago because people still do not know “the things that make for peace.”
Floors five through 21 are rented as offices, mainly to lawyers.