MONTE VISTA — Monte Vista is home to many beautiful and historic buildings. One of the most noticeable is the United Methodist Church that sits on 215 Washington St. The large church and the stately building stands out as you drive by. The United Methodist Church of Monte Vista has a long history that began when the town was still called Henry. It was founded in 1884 and was the first church in the town itself.
The first church that they built was a small stone chapel that was completed in 1892 at the cost of $5,406. The stone chapel featured a tower and bell and was dedicated on Dec. 11, 1892. While the church was being built the Methodists met each Sunday morning in the back of the Henry Mercantile Company on Jefferson Street. They also met for a time in a little schoolhouse on Monroe Street.
However, the stone chapel burned during the Sunday School hours on April 22, 1922. The fire was caused by a defective stove. After the first chapel burned, they set to work on a new modern church that would lend to the social history of Monte Vista. They wanted a large seating capacity, auditorium-stage space, and kitchen facilities, to be able to hold a wide variety of community activities, events, and meetings. The architect for the building was Charles J. Anderson, from Alamosa. The General Contractors for the church building were local contractors Frank and Wellington Worth. Wellington fell off a scaffold and was disabled for the rest of his life.
The new church was dedicated on March 16, 1924 and cost approximately $65,000. The new building featured unique designs and represents an architectural classification of the last 19th and early 20th century American movements: Prairie-School Style. One of the innovate elements is the sanctuary of the church connects with an overflow fellowship hall which can be separated by three one-ton overhead vertical sliding partitions. The two rooms have a 500-person seating capacity collectively. There are also hidden rooms throughout the church many under stairwells.
The outside of the church features an unusual face brick, purple tapestry finish pressed brick. This arrived in three carloads from the Pueblo Brick and Tile Company. There is no other building in Monte Vista or the San Luis Valley that was built with this kind of brick.
The church also has 55 stained glass windows shipped from the Kansas City Stained Glass Co. These were purchased in 1922 for $1,500. The glass was cut to various sizes and shapes and put together with lead. After that they were cemented to hold the glass firmly in place. The four large beautiful windows make a statement of the church’s faith and are significant from the life of Jesus.
The church sanctuary also has a magnificent Estey Pipe Organ and chimes which were dedicated on March 9, 1924. The total cost came to $6,625. The Priscilla Society donated $5,742. They also held many fundraising events which were mostly chicken dinners.
Today like it was originally intended the church is still used for various community use. Different groups including the quilting guild, PEO, and other groups meet here. The building also continues to be used for funerals and graduations and other events. However, over the course of the last year some regular events and meetings have not happened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The church is listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties and the National Register of Historic Places. After 137 years, it continues to hold services as a place of worship. Its congregation adding more layers of history to this beautiful and enduring, church.
Special thanks to Colette Skeff and Pastor Steve Dunkel for all their help with this article.