First Congregational Church Second Location (1896-2020)
431 Columbus Avenue
This ca. 1900 picture shows the building constructed by First Congregational Church on the northwest corner of Columbus Avenue and West Jefferson Street. Image courtesy of the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center
Walking several blocks south of Washington Park it is easy to see why this is locally known as the “church corner.”
After the decision to remove all buildings from the Erie County Court House square (see First Congregational Church First Location), First Congregational rented temporary facilities while it purchased this land and planned for the development of its new facility.
Construction of First Congregational’s second location began in 1895, and it was dedicated in May 1896. Plans for the structure were created by Cleveland architect Sidney R. Badgley, who specialized in the design of church and college buildings. Both the church’s arched wide porch and its square towers are signature elements found in Badgley’s architectural designs. Other notable features of the building include a glass dome in the sanctuary originally built as a natural skylight but enclosed in 1975 to prevent leaks, and a moveable wall between the sanctuary and the adjacent Boardman Room that could be opened for large crowds during Sunday services and other events.
When this building opened it was intended to be used as an “institutional church” that would serve not only the needs of its congregation but also its community. Its sanctuary was commonly used for local events as well as worship services, and the downstairs of the church originally housed an employment agency, one of the city’s early public libraries, and a gym and showers where the Sandusky High School basketball team first practiced.
This building would remain the home of First Congregational for the next 124 years, during which time the church became part of the United Church of Christ (UCC) following the 1957 merger of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Church denominations. Today, it is one of three UCC domination churches in Sandusky. In 2019, the church’s congregation voted to relocate and sell this building citing both its age and its rising maintenance costs.
First Congregational held its last service at this location on August 30, 2020 and then relocated to its current location in the Sandusky Plaza on Cleveland Road. The building was sold in April 2021 to investors who converted its former educational classrooms and office space into vacation rental units while maintaining the former sanctuary as an event space.