The picture of the Wayne Methodist Episcopal Church used to illustrate this week’s column is a very recent one, lent to your columnist by Albert Ware. But except for the ivy which covers its stone walls and the larger trees which now surround it, the church looks very much as it did after it was built in the closing years of the 19th century. Although the plot of ground on which it originally stood has been added to, the building itself has not seen any additions or structural changes.
The “Wayne News” carried a very complete story of the dedication, held on Sunday, June 28, 1891. The building itself is described as “of Gothic architecture with pointed window and door arches, mullioned and tracery window frames, which are filled with ornamental tinted glass in lead band frames. The walls are built of light gray stone from Christopher Fallon’s quarry, cement pointed and trimmed with Indiana limestone. The building and tower have angle buttresses and broad entrance steps, adding strength and dignity to the appearance.
“The tower is square at the base, changed to octagon above the entrance door, and finishing with a neat and graceful open belfry with slated spire top. The entire roof is high-pitched, covered with the best of Pennsylvania black slate, with ridge coverings and crestings of ornamental galvanized iron. Stone entrance gateposts are provided, with abutting walls, finished with jagged stone coping and broad footways, and drives curve up to the entrance doorsteps. The building has been set back from the street sufficiently to give broad, sweeping lawns, which have been sodded and trimmed with flower beds.”
So much for the church as it looked upon its completion In 1891, and as it still appears today. However, in the interval between the formal request upon the part of several Methodist families who had come to Wayne in the ’80’s and ’90’s, to the Wayne Estate “to set aside a suitable plot of ground for Methodist uses”, much had taken place.
According to William Post’s “history”, which prefaces the “Minute Record” of the church, Frank Smith, manager of Wayne Estate, “after consultation with the interests of the Estate, advised the brethren that whenever the Methodists of Wayne were prepared to erect a church edifice which should be in keeping with the architecture and surroundings of Wayne a suitable lot would be at their disposal.”
It was not long thereafter that “the gentlemen were notified by Mr. Smith that a lot at the comer of Woodland and Poplar avenues on the north side of the railroad had been granted for the use of the Society.” However, according to Mr. Post, “no formal steps were taken to secure this property in the absence of an organization and in view of the fact that the brethren were not all of one mind as to its desirability.”
This last factor evidently had much to do with the delay in accepting the offer of the Wayne Estate since two more sites were considered before the final selection of the Audubon avenue one was made. In the meantime the contingent of Wayne Methodists was augmented in the fall of 1889 by Mr. and Mrs. R.C. Ware, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Hogan, Mr. and Mrs. Heritage, Mr. and Mrs. James B. Carr and Mr. and Mrs. William Post. And “these new Methodist recruits again started thought along the line of a church society for Wayne.”
And apparently none of the group either among the newcomers or those who had already had the matter under consideration were entirely satisfied with the Poplar avenue site. Mr. Post’s history makes this point very clear. “A degree of unrest seemed to prevail at this time among the brethren as to the location of the lot set apart by the Estate for the Society. This led Mr. Joseph P.P. Brown and Mrs. A.M. Ware, after conference with the other brethren, to secure from Wendell and Smith the refusal of a lot at corner of Beechtree lane and Woodland avenue, and one at corner of Walnut and Woodland avenues.
Apparently quick action was needed to secure either lot. Possibly all the “brethren” were not in accord on the matter. At any rate neither was secured as a site for the proposed Methodist Church, “cash purchase coming in to take the one, and Wendell and Smith desiring to build upon the other.”
And then the Methodist group evidently saw the necessity of decisive action on their part for reasons given in Mr. Post’s history. He writes that “during this same year (1890), the town had had a marvelous growth. Houses were going up upon the hillsides everywhere and new and elegant Episcopal and Baptist Churches had been erected together with a dozen tasteful stores.” It was evidently high time for some decision on the part of local Methodists if they were not to be left in the vanguard of Wayne progress.
The first Sunday morning that the Wayne Methodist families had really been brought together was in February 1890, when, through the courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. A.M. Ware and of Joseph Williamson they “were afforded conveyance to Berwyn Methodist Church.” The occasion was “a debt raising” for this church. Dr. Reed, of Dickinson College, had been engaged “to conduct the pulpit work for the day.” And according to Mr. Post, “the Wayne contingent left substantial evidence of its visit.”
And it was only a month later – March 1890 – that “again one delightful afternoon… in an informal way quite a number of the Methodist families met at the corner of Audubon and Runnymede avenue to discuss and examine a proposed new church site.” And for many reasons the decision on the eventual site for the new new church was a quick one.
(To be continued)
(Mrs. Patterson feels that there must be other old pictures still in existence of the Wayne Methodist Church, its people and its entertainments, in addition to those lent her by Mrs. Carr and Mrs. Ware. Will readers please contact her if they know of any such picture, at Wayne 4569?)