Tuesday, June 21, 2011

First United Methodist Church, North Bend, NE

Methodists in North Bend, Nebraska area held their first service on June 6, 1858. From this time until 1860, services were held in homes during the winter and oftentimes in a local cottonwood grove during the summer. In 1872, the first Methodist church building (pictured above) was constructed on the site of the present church. In 1897, the church was substantially remodelled. Work included repairs to the church exterior and bell tower as well as new paint, papering, and wood burning stoves for the interior. New seating was added to the building in 1901.

In 1912, Lincoln architect J.R. Smith was enlisted to design the present church building. ( It is worth noting that J.R. Smith also designed North Bend's Carnegie Library, which was dedicated in 1913.) The church was constructed by Thomas Eastergaard at a cost of $5,910 and was dedicated on February 2, 1913.

Electricity was later added to the church in 1915 and a new parsonage constructed in 1918. In 1949, the church interior was redecorated. An electric organ was installed, new carpet laid, and a new furnace installed. A addition including a fellowship hall and classrooms was constructed in 1957. In 1965, Purple Cane Methodist Church north of North Bend closed and merged with its sister congregation in town.

In 1969, the front entryway of the church was remodeled. The bell tower was removed and main stairs enclosed and reoriented to the south. The entire church was also faced with brick. The renovations totaled $18,500. The church bell, formerly in the now-removed bell tower was placed in front of the church in 1971.

The interior of the church was extensively remodeled in 1979. At that time, the ceiling was lowered, south room partitioned off, new carpeting, insulation, a large oak cross above the altar was added. The church was rededicated on June 8, 1980.

Though the church interior has been radically altered over the years, it retains a sense of warmth, created largely from the brown tones of the stained glass windows.

In the late 1950s, many memorials and generous gifts helped purchase the blond oak pulpit furniture, baptismal font, and brass candle holders and cross.

The stylized 1950s interpretation of the Gothic style is easily found in the sanctuary furnishings.

While simple in design, the stained glass windows contain some of the most vivid and striking colors I've seen. These windows, original to the church, were created by the Midland Art Glass Company of Omaha for a cost of $240.

The real artistic treasure is the large window at the rear of the church.

The number of congregation members began to steadily decrease and by September of 2010, the congregation voted to disband.

On January 2, 2011, the contents of the church were auctioned off. The final service was held the following Sunday, January 9. The church building, along with its windows are now listed for sale.

Prior to the church's closing, the congregation of about 12 people met in a smaller room south of the main body of the church in order to save on utility costs.

The small chapel room as it was decorated for the Advent season, just before the church was closed.

The small chapel room contains a smaller version of the church's large east window. I would imagine that the meaning of this window has changed over time for congregation members. With the church now closed, this window almost seems to symbolize the church structure that they once loved giving way to an uncertain, but beautiful path to the future.

Newspaper Articles related to the closing of the North Bend United Methodist Church:

Methodists observe 150th
Methodists hope lay minister will help prolong church's life
Methodist church celebrating final year
North Bend Church is Closing
Finals days of Methodist church planned
Methodists hold final service in North Bend

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