The history of Methodism in Tompkins County goes back to 1793 when a circuit
rider, Wm. Colbert, Jr. preached the first Methodist sermon in Ithaca. This
was followed in 1794 by the formation of the first "Methodist Class".
In 1819, under the direction of David Ayers, the small band undertook construction
of their first house of worship. The building was forty-four by fifty-eight
feet and of wood frame construction, located on the corner of Aurora St. and
Mill St, (now known as Court St.) which is the location of the current structure.
By mid-century the congregation had outgrown the building and plans were developed
to erect a larger church on the site, this time of brick. This building served
well for the growing congregation until, in 1892, it was determined that either
an addition was needed, or a new facility had to be considered.
After only 36 years of service, it was decided that the brick church, now known
as the First Methodist Episcopal Church, would be demolished and a new building
constructed on the site. The last service of worship was held in November of
1906. Bricks from the structure were salvaged for use in the new stone faced
church, the design of which was based on the "Akron Plan" that was
popular at the time.
The new building, the present church, was opened in 1909 with a week long celebration
and received great recognition in the February 25, 1909 edition of The
At this time the house just north of the church on Aurora Street was serving
as the parsonage. However, it was decided that a larger home was needed for
the pastor, so in 1917 the present parsonage, immediately west of the church
on Court Street, was constructed. The old parsonage was then converted into
office and classroom space.
Over the first half of the century the congregation grew steadily and it was
decided, in 1948, that additional classroom facilities were needed. In order
to make room for an attached addition, the old Church House was demolished and
the three floor addition placed on the site. This part of the now enlarged church
was named the "Church House", bearing the name of the old structure.
Over the years a second Methodist congregation had grown in Ithaca as well.
Their church, located on State Street, and bearing that name, had deteriorated
to the point that extremely expensive repairs were needed in order to maintain
its integrity. After much discussion between the leaders of both churches, it
was decided that the best solution was to merge the two downtown Methodist congregations
at the First Methodist location.
Thus, in 1961 the merger was officially completed with the new church taking
on the name: St. Paul's Methodist Church. Some pews and other furnishings from
State Street were installed in the "new" church in order to maintain
some physical connection.
The final step in the evolution of the church was the merger, on the national
level, of the Methodist Church and the United Breatheran Church. The resulting
name, the United Methodist Church, completed the transition to our present name:
St. Paul's United Methodist Church of Ithaca.
Return to Top of Page