Lisbon United Methodist Church
The Lisbon United Methodist Church was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in December of 2015 based on its architectural, social, and religious significance. The church is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to Lisbon’s history and represents the work of Josselyn and Taylor Architects, an important Cedar Rapids architectural firm of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries.
The Church sits on the corner of North Jackson and East Market Streets, the site of the original Lisbon Methodist Church, which was demolished to make space for the new church. It is the only church standing today that was designed by Josselyn and Taylor Architects. The firm designed only one other church, which was located in Cedar Rapids but demolished in 1948. The firm of Josselyn and Taylor was well known throughout the State of Iowa and commissioned to design several buildings, including the historic Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, The University of Iowa Medical Hospital building in Iowa City, and the World’s Columbian Exposition at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.
Henry Josselyn was a friend of church member Willard C. Stuckslager, a State Senator and successful banker and insurance agent in Lisbon. Because of this personal connection, the Lisbon Methodist Church was built in a building type uncommon among the works of Josselyn and Taylor -- an elaborate style not typically seen in a small community.
Raising the money to build a new church was an ambitious community endeavor since Lisbon’s population was only about 950 at that time and the community was home to eight other churches. Most of the funds were raised before construction on the building began by members of the Lisbon United Methodist Church, and by members of other churches and residents of Lisbon, many of whom gave 25 cents each.
Construction on the church began in 1898 but was not completed until the following year at a cost of $14,000. Before construction began $8,000 was raised. Although there were only about 150 church members at that time, over 900 people attended the grand opening and dedication service held on April 9, 1899. The additional $6,000 needed to cover the cost of the construction was pledged on dedication day, leaving the church debt-free.
The Ladies Aid Society pledged $3,000 for furnishings for the church, including $1,000 designated for the large stained glass window. The pipe organ was originally proposed by the Ladies Aid Society but not installed until the summer of 1915. The original billows can still be seen above the coal room in the basement of the church. The Ladies Aid Society organized many fundraisers, offering ten cent meals to cover the $3,000 cost of the pipe organ. With a $1,000 grant from the Carnegie Foundation, the project was paid in full by 1917.
The Lisbon Methodist Church displays Late Victorian architecture in a combination of Queen Anne and Shingle Style features. The exterior is prominently Queen Anne style, displaying contrasting materials (limestone, brick, and wood), gabled walls, decorative boards, and stained glass. The main level of the church is constructed of red brick with limestone trim. The two cross gables on the west and south are the prominent architectural points of the church. The cross-gabled roof is covered in green clay tiles. The foundation and raised basement are constructed with limestone that came from nearby Stone City. The original steeple was damaged by lightning in 1956 and rebuilt in 1999. The steeple has a raised stone foundation and brick walls.
The Shingle Style can be seen in the overall openness of the design of the large auditorium and gallery, round arch entryway, and the shape of the interior trusses and ceiling. The auditorium is two stories high and provided seating for up to 500 people. The open floor plan and social rooms reflected beliefs central to the Social Gospel, which advocated for an expanded social and educational role for churches, including large Sunday school classrooms and social rooms for community gatherings. The church was a center of community for Lisbon residents, hosting public high school commencement ceremonies and the school’s annual alumni banquet for a number of years; annual Memorial Day ecumenical services; meetings and lectures focusing on social issues; civic and patriotic meetings and events (especially during WW I); and local as well as traveling entertainment groups. The interior of the church contains many of its original features, including the large folding wood-paneled doors between the auditorium and gallery, pews, stained glass windows, decorative metal floor vents, two staircases, wood paneled doors, and wood floor and moldings.
The stained glass windows are all original, although some restoration work has been done. The large central window is the jewel of the church’s collection of stained glass and is made up of three gothic arches topped with three circular rosettes. The center window displays a depiction of Christ Standing at the Door Knocking. The pulpit and pew ends are Gothic designs.
The plasterwork was commissioned in August of 1915 to Kynett and Son Painting Company, and some of the plaster was later repaired by Bennett and Son Painting, descendants of the Kynett family. The decorative stenciling is painted into the plaster and can still be viewed in the upper hallway.
The Steinway piano is the original piano that was purchased for $450 for the grand celebration in 1899. The piano is a rare Steinway model which features 85 keys instead of the usual 88 keys. It is said to be only one of three known models of this Steinway remaining in the world. The Steinway was professionally restored to its original state in 2014 through memorial gifts. The total restoration cost of the project was over $27,000.
Jennifer Price, Price Preservation Research, Coralville, Iowa
Lisbon United Methodist Church
Lisbon Historic Preservation Commission