Our Heritage

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We are not isolated atoms in time and space, coming from nothing and going to nowhere, but living links in the endless chain of being which binds together all that is, all that has been, and all that shall be. We are children of the past and parents of the future. The past has made us what we are, the future will be what we make it, and we are bound to both by indissoluble ties.”
Rev. William McKinley, pastor, Hamline Methodist Episcopal Church, 1886-1891

Hamline Church United Methodist has deep historic roots, welcoming all who enter. Our strong traditions in worship and through the arts reflect the glory and beauty of God.

Methodism itself was born through John and Charles Wesley’s Holy Club at Oxford University. Hamline Church traces its roots to the Methodist practice of planting educational institutions to bring education to the frontier. Hamline Church can claim Hamline University as a parent, whose faculty, staff and students were natural carriers of the Methodist tradition to Minnesota in 1854.

When Hamline University closed its Red Wing location in 1869, University trustees wanted a new site, more central within Minnesota. They purchased the southwest quarter of section 27, Rose Township, Ramsey County, in 1873. Street names have changed since this 1874 map was printed. University Avenue is now Minnehaha Avenue.

New campus construction attracted a small village: workers hired to create the campus, railroad workers, retired clergy and their families, and the necessary amenities. Opening brought more residents: faculty members and students.  A new church in the neighborhood was needed. Hamline Church’s first service was led by Rev. Charles Bradley, a Hamline University professor, on campus on September 12, 1880, about a week before classes began.

In December 1885, the congregation’s Quarterly Conference directed church trustees to “proceed immediately to purchase a lot or lots for a church building.” The October 1886 Quarterly Conference determined to support a preacher entirely separate from the University. The Rev. William McKinley arrived in 1886, and in 1887 the congregation purchased a lot on the corner of Asbury and Capitol (later renamed Englewood).

The congregation set about raising money to hire an architect and construct a building. The Ladies’ Aid Society took the lead and opened a dining hall on the State Fairgrounds in 1897. Their first year’s receipts of $373.97 went for current expenses, the second of $503.56 went to the building fund, and most of the rest for the next ten years for “necessaries” for the new church, including paying for the first organ and furnishing the kitchen.

The Minnesota Annual Conference supported the building of a church building.

Its 1898 Yearbook noted the need for a church for the local Hamline community that could be used for university commencement exercises, large gatherings, and as a church home for the students.

Prominent architect Clarence Johnston designed the new church. In December 1899 the foundation was laid, and in April 1900 the contract for the superstructure awarded. Total cost was about $17,000, not including carpets and furnishings. The church was dedicated in November 1900.

Hamline Church had come of age. From the twenty-two who had become members in 1880, the congregation now numbered almost 400. It supported its own full-time pastor with a salary of $1,700, and its sanctuary was valued at $20,000. It had only to purchase an organ to compete with other churches in St. Paul with music for social purposes as well as worship.

Map of the St. Paul Hamline University Site
The Hamline Church Dining Hall was first constructed and opened in 1897.
First Hamline Church Building
First Hamline Church Building





Neighborhood Growth and Disaster

The congregation’s successful reach into the neighborhood resulted in crowded conditions in the church and need for additional staff. The first Director of Religious Education was hired in September 1924. Soon after, Dr. George Henry Zentz met with the Trustees about a future building program, especially since $25,000 had been included in the Preview Missionary Program of the denomination. He also established a committee to meet with a like committee at Hamline University to discuss a joint building project supported by joint fund raising.

By November 1925, it was clear that the congregation would not adopt the proposal. Then disaster struck.

The congregation’s first building burned on December 26, 1925 in a spectacular fire.

Everything was lost: the organ fell through the floor, the rose window shattered in the heat, and nothing was salvageable.

Dr. Zentz wasted no time. Within the first week after the fire, committees formed to deal with Sunday School and worship needs, and the congregation returned to University Hall for worship. With an architect in the congregation, Fred Slifer of Slifer and Abrahamson, the Church acted immediately to replace the building. More land was needed for the desired gothic style church, requiring the move of the parsonage across Snelling.

By May 1926, plans were well underway.The site of the church fire was cleaned up, and ground breaking took place in June 1926. Two archeological digs by Hamline University students and neighbors have found artifacts left from the fire.

The congregation worshipped in its new church basement in December, 1926.

Work on the superstructure began that spring and the building was dedicated in April 1928. Insurance proceeds from the fire covered about 10% of the costs, and fund raising continued. Hamline University contributed the difference between having a brick church or a stone church, and purchased the stained glass windows in the transepts, chancel and rear balcony. They honor early Hamline University staff. Students attended weekly chapel and were encouraged to attend worship as well.

The first remodeling project began almost immediately, with the addition of a space for a nursery and a room for organ pipes by the west transept, balancing the pastor’s office on the other side of the chancel. The organ, the last large organ built by Hook and Hastings, was a gift of Emma Norton (Mrs. Mathew) of Winona and installed in 1929. That organ was replaced with the pair of Fréres Casavant organs in 1972 and 1974. The antiphonal organ in the rear balcony was purchased for the church by Hamline University as a teaching instrument for their organ students, and can be played from the rear balcony or from the chancel organ console.