BY Win Dolan
Highlights of Our Story First Baptist Church: 1867-2007
A year long series originally printed in the Tidings (article #12)
Continuing our walk, we’ll start this time at the east or Cowls Street entrance, where a few may remember A.G. “Dan’ I” Boone as self-appointed greeter, propping the door open with one foot while shaking hands with everyone who entered. To our left is the Fireplace Room, one of the few spaces essentially unchanged, used for all kinds of group meetings through the years. Proceeding down the hall, we pass the library, once the church office. We turn right toward the sanctuary, pausing to notice another entrance, provided with an outside ramp, the only access for wheel chairs before the ground-level door on Washington Street. In this entrance there once hung a rope for ringing the church bell in the tower above, now controlled electronically. We’ll look into the sanctuary to notice the handsome modern stained-glass window above the balcony, invisible to pew-sitters but prominent to anyone on the platform. This was a gift a few years ago from the Gerry and Earle Shipley family and others.
Back in the hall and continuing westward, the left side contains the church offices, while on the right is a lighted treasure-case full of notable artifacts and pictures. Here is the Rev. Andrew J. Hunsaker, 5th pastor from 1877-79, whose memorial tablet was the beginning of our walk last month. Here are portraits of pastors and staffers from long ago to the present, and chairs from the early days of this building as well as its predecessor from 1890 to 1927.
We can reach the second floor either by elevator or stairway, to complete our walk in the upper hall going east. On the right is the choir room, a welcome luxury after decades of practicing in many an odd corner. Across the hall is the choir library with hundreds of anthems old and recent, all carefully shelved and catalogued. Going east in the upper hall, there is a series of rarely opened doors on the left: to the organ-pipe space, to a double door concealing a tiny kitchenette, to an unused and windowless office space, and to the archives room. Across the hall are the adult classrooms. Straight ahead is a handsome stained-glass panel, which has its own history but not connected to ours. It was placed by Frank Nelson in memory of his first wife Helene. Although it appears to be entirely abstract, there are figures concealed in it, something like the old children’s puzzle of Find-the-Cat.
Finally, one more very old relic is a square frame of stained glass, hanging in a window on the stairway to our left. It was rescued many years ago by Ezra Koch from remnants of the pre-1927 church building. — and this completes our walking tour in history. – Now be prepared for your final exam in FBC History 101!