The History of Wesley Monumental UMC
Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church has a long and interesting history in the Savannah area.
Read on to learn more about how our church building and congregation came to be.
Savannah’s first Methodist Church, Wesley Chapel, was established at the corner of Lincoln Street and Oglethorpe Avenue. A little later, the congregation purchased a lot on Telfair Square where they built what is presently the Trinity church building.
Wesley Chapel was closed and the congregation moved to the Trinity building. When the two churches became one, it became known as Trinity Church.
The Reverend A. M. Wynn was serving as pastor of Trinity during the third quarterly conference when plans were formulated to establish a city mission. Services of the new mission were held in the old Chatham Academy building for nearly two years.
On January 19, Wesley Church was organized to replace City Mission with 54 persons enrolling their names that day.
In April, the Congregation moved from the schoolroom to a church located on the space now occupied by Wesley Monumental’s current educational building, which Trinity had purchased from the Lutherans and renovated for use by the newly formed Wesley Church.
In addition to the Wesley Church building, Trinity church also owned the nearby lot facing the square formerly known as Calhoun Square. They began to plan for a new church building on that lot to be a monument to John and Charles Wesley.
On June 30, 1875, groundbreaking for the new church building took place. The cornerstone laying ceremony was on August 10. In December, while the church was under construction, the South Georgia conference passed a resolution approving a monument to John Wesley. This was to take the form of a “beautiful and commodious edifice” to be called Wesley Monumental Church.
Contributions were received from all over the world. For this reason, it has been said that Wesley Monumental Church belongs to all Methodists.
Because of financial woes during the period of reconstruction and a catastrophic yellow fever epidemic, work proceeded slowly. On May 12, 1878, the first phase of the construction was completed and the street-level area was finally able to be occupied.
It took twelve more years before the sanctuary on the second floor was finished. It was dedicated on May 30, 1890, though it took many more years before the steeples and stucco were added.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new Educational Building on June 21, 1926. During construction, the outside steps and door leading to the sanctuary were added.
On February 20, 1927, the dedication ceremony for the Educational Building took place.
1946 & 1953
Fire broke out once in 1946 and again in 1953, causing extensive damage. Thankfully, a steel ceiling had been installed in the sanctuary in 1902 which helped contain the blaze and ultimately saved the sanctuary from destruction.
The Clark-Espy House next door on Wayne Street was purchased. It was used for Sunday School classes, young peoples’ meetings, and social gatherings. Later, it was divided into apartments and rented for many years. In 2015, it was renamed and dedicated as Oliver Hall. The church offices now occupy the ground floor, and reception spaces and adult Sunday School classes are on the second through fourth floors.
The magnificent Noack Organ, designed and built by Fritz Noack of the Noack Company of Massachusetts, was dedicated on February 19, 1985. The Gothic style of the organ case is a beautiful addition to the sanctuary.
Now, Wesley Monumental Church is Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church. We have a thriving, multi-generational church family made up of people who desire to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world from our home on Abercorn Street. We consider it a joy and a privilege to have this place to worship, and we strive to steward it well as its caretakers.
Would you like to know more about worship at Wesley Monumental?
We invite you to visit this Sunday morning. Services are at 8:45 and 11 a.m.
For more information, please visit our What to Expect page.