Community History – Covington – First Christian Church

Community History - Covington - First Christian Church

The earliest recorded meeting of the congregation took place in 1827 with 15 members present. The meeting place was a frame one-story structure owned by James G. Arnold on 2nd Street. A cholera epidemic in 1833, however, took a heavy toll on the young congregation. The congregation quit meeting for a number of years. In 1840, James G. Arnold began holding meetings again – this time in a tobacco warehouse. Arnold donated a lot on 3rd Street to the congregation in 1843. A frame church building was quickly constructed on the site.

The congregation was incorporated in 1855 as the Christian Church of Covington. The incorporators were: James M. Fisher, James C. Thomas, George W. McDonald, William B. Mooklar and Henry Hathaway.

In 1865, the congregation received a lot on the north Side of 5th Street west of Madison Avenue for the site of a larger church. The lot was donated by James G. Arnold. A Romanesque Revival Style church with a prominent central bell tower and spire was erected on this lot and dedicated on March 24, 1867. The name of the congregation was carved over the front entry “Fifth Street Christian Church.” Construction costs reached the sum of nearly $35,000.

Fifth Street Christian continued to prosper until the early morning of March 5, 1893. On that morning a fire broke out in the nearby six-story Fred J. Meyers Manufacturing Company. By the time the Covington Fire Department arrived on the scene, the blaze had already spread to the church. Flames in the church tower reached a height of nearly 100’ feet. By the time the fire had been extinguished, the blaze had spread to eleven structures and had caused nearly a half million dollars in damage. The Fifth Christian Church was almost completely destroyed. Insurance on the church building covered losses of only $8,000.

The members of the congregation decided to rebuild their church on the 5th Street site. On April 1, 1893, the congregation announced plans for a new brick and stone church 58’ wide and 90’ in length. The Cincinnati architectural firm of Dittoe and Wisenall designed the structure. The bidding process for the new church revealed much higher construction costs than predicted. The church board directed the architects to modify the building to cut costs. The resulting plans called for a brick church with stone trimmings constructed in the Gothic Revival Style. The cornerstone of the church was laid in a Masonic ceremony on November 14, 1893 and the building was dedicated on October 14, 1894. The two-story structure contained Sunday school classrooms and a kitchen on the first floor and a large worship space on the second. Behind the pulpit was located two stained glass windows and a large organ. The interior was lighted with 260 electric lights. At this time, the name of the congregation was changed to First Christian Church.

In the post World War II era, First Christian, like most other Covington congregations, suffered from urban flight. The congregation, however, decided to remain in their urban location and serve the community. In the mid-1950s, the board agreed to finance a complete renovation of the church building costing $125,000. The Sunday school classrooms were remodeled and the auditorium was redecorated. A choir loft was constructed in the rear of the auditorium and the organ was removed to this new location. Unfortunately, these changes resulted in the removal of the largest stained-glass window in the building. This window, which measured 24’ x 18’, featured a depiction of the Ascension. Other changes included the reconstruction of the sanctuary area and the removal of two smaller stained-glass windows behind the pulpit. The building was rededicated on October 6, 1957.

By the early 1990s, membership at First Christian began to stabilize at about 230. At about this time, the congregation supported another updating of the church facilities. Improvements included an elevator and chair lift for the elderly and physically impaired. In 1993, the congregation experienced a first with the arrival of co-Pastors Michael and Kay Peacock.

First Christian Church is active in the Interfaith Hospitality Network and various other charitable and social service projects. The church draws members from Covington and throughout Northern Kentucky.

A Year to Remember 1865-1965; Our Church and Its Programs (Local History Files, KCPL); Paul Allen Tenkotte, Heritage of Art and Faith (Published by the Kenton County Historical Society with Assistance from the Kentucky Humanities Council 1986); Kentucky Times-Star, September 13, 1957, p. 1A; Kentucky Post, March 6, 1893, p. 1, March 7, 1893, p. 1, April 1, 1893, p. 5, May 20, 1893, p. 4, October 13, 1894, p. 3, April 6, 1991, p. 7K, March 20, 1993, p. 8 and August 5, 2002, p. 4K.

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