After World War I, there were those who believed that First Methodist Church of Chicago should sell its valuable downtown real estate and move to the growing suburbs.
Instead, the leaders of the church followed the dictum of the great Chicago architect Daniel Burnham who famously said: “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work… Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big.”
In this spirit, the congregation’s leaders decided the church would stay at “the Methodist Corner.” And they would not only build a new church, but a big one and a tall one. They engaged the renowned architectural firm of Holabird & Roche and gave them instructions to design a building that would be “Gothic in structure, with a churchly tower, a radiant cross at its pinnacle.” It would be a building that could rightly be thought of as a city temple.
Now the congregation stills gathers for worship in the first-floor sanctuary that seats about 500 people. The focal point is the altar with its wood carving that depicts Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem. Above the altar is a stained glass window that tells the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The windows along the east and west walls portray events described in the Old and New Testaments. On the west wall there is one window that depicts downtown Chicago and the Chicago Temple. Next to it is a window that honors institutions in the Chicago area that the congregation helped found, including Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Northwestern University, Wesley Hospital and the Methodist Home for Children.
Located on the second floor are the Dixon Chapel, James Parlor, the Heritage Room and church offices. The third and fourth floors house the classrooms and nursery, a conference room and a choir room.
Each year thousands of people make the pilgrimage by two elevators and a set of stairs to the Sky Chapel located under the spire 400 feet above the streets of the city. Dedicated on Easter morning 1952, the chapel was a gift from the Walgreen family in memory of Mr. Charles R. Walgreen. The chapel’s altar is a companion piece to the altar in the sanctuary but in the carving on this altar Jesus is shown weeping over the city of Chicago because people still do not know “the things that make for peace.”
Floors five through 21 are rented as offices, mainly to lawyers who prize the proximity to the city, county and state buildings.
Tours are available Monday through Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday after each worship service. For holiday tours and for groups of 10 or more please call ahead.