Timeline of Williamsville United Methodist Church Building
1844 to 1847 - The first structure that was built and dedicated in 1847 was just 55 feet by 36 feet. The building was dedicated three years before Williamsville was incorporated. This sturdy building served the congregation's worship needs and needed little repair until 1906. This original portion of the building is the center of our Sanctuary today.
1906 – No changes or repairs were made to the original church building for 60 years. Then in 1906, with a membership of 36, a tower was added to the entrance of the church, which was on the west side of the building on Main Street. Today, this tower is where the sacristy is located. Another change made at this time was the installation of the stained glass windows. A flyer from the 130th anniversary celebration states, "Of especial interest to historians, is the fact that one of the beautiful stained glass windows, which were installed in 1905, was paid for and dedicated by a group of Union Veterans of the Civil War." We still enjoy these lovely stained glass windows in our sanctuary today.
1917 – Between 1906 and 1917, over 100 members were added to the church roles. This growth in membership meant that the church needed to be used for fellowship, as well as worship. For this reason, in 1917 the original building was raised five feet and excavated underneath to create a ground-level area that became Wesley Fellowship Hall, a kitchen, and a heating plant. At the same time, about 12 feet were added to the main level of the church on the south side, behind what was then the chancel. This area was used as a parlor and a prayer room.
1922 – Five years later in 1922, new outside cement steps were poured and a 12-foot spire was added to the tower. In addition, the sanctuary was extensively redecorated and modernized to reflect lifestyle changes in the society. These changes included electrical standards, electrical fixtures, carpeting, and new chancel furniture. The pulpit platform was rebuilt and a new baptismal font and altar rail were installed.
1926 – With membership at 178, the church and church school were overcrowded, which caused the Trustees to vote to build again. To provide church school classrooms, records indicate that two stories were added to the south end of the buidling, roughly where the balcony and “overflow” pews are today. Just prior to the Depression, 15 feet of land east of the original property was purchased, giving the church a wider frontage. To pay for this mortgage, penny barrels were distributed during the Depression years.
1949 to 1950 – The most dramatic change during this rebuilding project was changing the position of the chancel. The chancel was moved to the north end of the sanctuary, where it remains today. The front windows of the church were covered, as well as the entrance in the tower. A new entrance on the Main Street side of the building was created in the new addition. The new addition included offices and church school rooms. At the dedication in 1950, which was led by Bishop Ledden, 100 people joined the church bringing the membership to 587.
1949 before renovation 1950 Main Street Entrance 1950 after renovation
1955 to 1956 – The church continued a period of rapid growth as the suburbs grew. In five years, it was again necessary to expand the church building to meet the needs of nearly 900 members. In 1955-1956, a three-story block addition was built. The ground floor addition was dedicated as Memorial Hall, which is now called Fillmore Hall. The parlor was added on the main floor behind the sanctuary. Folding doors were installed to allow for overflow seating during services. The top floor housed church school classrooms. This expansion used all of the land owned by the church.
As membership continued to grow, the congregation voted to buy the property adjacent to the church in 1964. This vote was significant because it reaffired the decision to keep the church in the Village and to continue to grow and change in this location. The house and the barn on the corner property were used for several years as classrooms. However, soon another expansion and renovation program was started, which resulted in the building as it is today.
1974 to 1975 – This expansion was to the west of the 1926, 1950, and 1956 additions. The main entrance was moved to the Oakgrove side of the church, although the 1949 Main Street entrance remained. On the main level, the expansion included a large narthex and cloakroom that adjoin the sanctuary, offices, library, work area, and restrooms. The gound-level expansion included additional classrooms, another cloakroom, and more restrooms. The choir area was expanded by extending it toward Main Street. The stained glass windows that were covered in 1950 were rediscovered and moved to the wall between the library and the new entrance.
At the same time, a major renovation of the existing building was completed that included redecoration and refurbishing of the sanctuary. On the ground-level, the kitchen was modernized and its size was doubled. Classroom space was rearranged. The outside of the wooden structure was sheathed in aluminum and plexiglass was installed to protect the stained glass windows.
The expanded and remodeled building that was dedicated in 1975 has provided us with a convenient focus for reflecting on our history as we tell our story. However, the reflection is really of the people and their needs for worship, fellowship, and growth in knowledge, faith, and Christian love.
The Village of Williamsville and the Town of Amherst continued to grow. This growth was reflected in the need for a larger building to provide space for more people to worship, fellowship, and grow in faith. When the support beam broke in 1946 and extensive repair was needed, the membership had to decide whether to stay on Main Street or move to a new location. Plans were studied and other sites were considered. When the decision was made to stay in the current location, the church embarked on a building fund campaign in 1949 to rebuild and modernize the church where it stood.