The 1968 Merger and 1971-1972 Construction
The global United Methodist Church was formed in 1968 as the union of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church.
Locally, this meant the merger of two churches located just three blocks apart on West Main Street in Paoli — the First Methodist Church of Paoli and the Otterbein Evangelical United Brethren Church.
In the first picture you see John Russell, at left, the E.U.B. pastor for 1964-1969, and Richard Gillum, at center, the Methodist pastor, at the merger ceremony in December, 1968. Behind Gillum, on the right, is Dr. Robert Baldridge, the District Superintendent.
Reverend Robert Allred became our pastor in 1969, soon after the merger.
The newly merged congregation needed a larger facility. A new building was designed, and many of the members helped with the construction.
Below are pictures taking you through the entire process, from ground-breaking on July 11, 1971, to the consecration service on October 15, 1972.
Ground-Breaking, Excavation and Foundations
This farm field just east of the Paoli city limit on Indiana Highway 56 would become the site of the Paoli United Methodist Church. This is what it looked like before construction began in 1971.
The ground-breaking ceremony was on July 11, 1971. Left to right here we see Jim Bowen, Reverend Robert Allred, William Cromwell, District Superintendent Dr. Robert Baldridge, Charles Lane, Bruce Atkinson, and other members.
Lester Sturm and Mark Atkinson worked to survey the construction site and lay out the new church.
After many building committee visits to Methodist churches around the state and much planning and contract letting, the struggle began. Inflation and withdrawal of the general contractor created the necessity for more work.
But in November, 1971, earth moving finally began.
Typical of southern Indiana, the ground there held plenty of limestone. Some was in the form of individual stones which could be moved fairly easily, but some was not.
The plan called for a lower floor accessible on ground level in the rear but a full floor below the original grade.
This is where the project ran into solid rock.
Holes were drilled for blasting. Charges would be placed in these holes to break up the rock.
One of our members, Roe McCoy, worked with explosives.
The topsoil has been removed and holes drilled for blasting.
Several explosive charges were carefully placed.
When all the charges are placed, they will be detonated from a safe distance.
The blasting did the trick. The stone was broken apart enough that the equipment could move the resulting pieces and clear the needed space.
Now the bulldozer could finish the job of excavating the basement.
Foundation work could begin once the major excavation was complete.
Many concrete blocks were delivered.
Other excavation was still needed, for drainage tiles and water and sewage lines.
Concrete Block Structure
Lester Sturm was a member of the Building Committee, and he served as a paid, as well as a volunteer, worker putting in long hours on the job.
The walls began to rise!
The lower floor is almost entirely below the original grade.
The lower level reached its full height and the church structure began to rise above grade level as seen from the front. The space around these lower walls would be back-filled and the main floor built above that.
Steel trusses hung from those walls support the floor above. The floor of Fellowship Hall and the choir room are supported by these trusses.
Corrugated steel decking will be placed on these trusses, and a reinforced concrete floor poured on that.
Many loads of concrete blocks were delivered. This truck is about in the center of the sanctuary, facing the front.
A large structural steel beam was needed to span the narthex area.
This I-beam spans the rear of the sanctuary, the front of the narthex, supporting the classrooms above the narthex.
The wall at the rear of the sanctuary, mostly doors and windows, does not need to support the weight of the upper floor.
The inner and outer walls of the classroom areas were constructed first. The water and waste lines for the restrooms had to be trenched out. Here we see some of that being done by hand.
The backhoe, parked nearly in the kitchen, could do some of the digging. But some of the water and waste line trenches were cut by hand.
The construction plans were carefully checked and re-checked.
Lester Sturm is conferring with Hilbert Fisher, electrician, and Robert Starr, heating and air-conditioning contractor.
The walls continued to rise.
Here we are looking through the main entry area and across the narthex and to the right rear wall of the sanctuary. The doorway to the front hall is directly behind the flame. To the left of that we see the bottom sections of two of the sanctuary windows.
Temporary wooden forms were used to frame the arched windows of the sanctuary, so block arches could be built.
We are looking diagonally across what will become the front hallway and rooms, across the corner of the central courtyard, at the exterior of the right wall of the sanctuary.
More materials were constantly needed. This concrete mixer truck has back into the main entryway. Beyond it, looking into the sanctuary, we see the right or eastern wall of the sanctuary rising above the arched tops of the windows.
Continuing the Construction
Once the walls around the Fellowship Hall and the choir room had been completed, the men placed corrugated steel decking on the trusses supported by the lower floor's walls.
Reinforcing steel would be woven on top of that, and a steel-reinforced concrete floor would be poured.
Some concrete was poured on the corrugated steel decking, then reinforcing steel mesh was laid on top. Then more concrete was poured on top. Here we are looking to the west through Fellowship Hall.
A concrete mixer truck could still get into the central courtyard as the front walls were not yet built. From there it could pour the concrete for the Fellowship Hall floor.
As for the choir room, the front wall of the sanctuary had not been built yet. That floor could be poured from within the sanctuary, as we will see below.
Here we see the ventilation ducts being installed below the sanctuary floor. We are looking forward along the right wall of the sanctuary, over the altar area and to the choir room beyond.
Here we see the concrete floor being finished for the front hall and the rooms along either side. The interior walls dividing those rooms and the hallway will be built on top of this floor.
The walls continued to rise.
Here we are looking to the north, from the south hallway through the nursery area and the parlor. The east wall of the central courtyard has just one to three rows of blocks so far. The interior walls have not even been started.
The rear face of the church is three stories tall above and below the choir room. Here we see a crane lifting the northernmost wooden truss into place.
Roof and Bricks
Once the exterior walls were complete, wooden trusses could be installed.
Here we see trusses and roof sheeting progressing across the Fellowship Hall.
The large trusses and roof sheeting extended from front to back over the choir room and sanctuary.
Meanwhile the Fellowship Hall roof has been fully built up and now has been covered with tar paper.
Once all the exterior walls were finished on the south and east halls, the roof could follow. After that, interior walls would be built up.
But meanwhile, you can see that the main entryway is still largely unfinished.
That is because...
The sanctuary and choir room still had incomplete floors!
A concrete mixer truck would be pulled through the entry area into what is now the rear center of the sanctuary. From there, men carried concrete in wheelbarrows to pour the floor of the choir room and the altar area.
Like the Fellowship Hall, this was a reinforced concrete floor poured over corrugated steel decking laid over steel trusses suspended from the lower floor's walls.
The two layers of concrete blocks are the back wall of the lower floor, and the front edge of the altar area.
The large dark block, beyond the man in the yellow shirt, is the stairwell leading to the upper and lower floors.
All of this required careful planning and repeated checks with the plans.
Here we see Hib Lindsey, the general contractor, reviewing progress.
With all the exterior walls completed in concrete block, the exterior brick layer could be added.
The roof could be completed and the eaves constructed.
All this left quite a mess of construction debris.
Children did what they could, cleaning up the construction debris.
These are members of childrens' Sunday School classes cleaning up debris in the evening.
Eventually the project got to the point where trucks no longer needed to drive into the middle of the church, and the main entryway was enclosed.
Here we see it once the brick has been laid. Columns and a portico will be added next.
District Superintendent Dr. Robert Baldridge is visiting to check on our progress.
The columns are holding up the outer framework of the portico.
Material was lifted into place to complete the portico.
With the roof trusses in place, the interior walls were then built to divide the rooms and hallways.
Here we see some metal door frames at left, with the surrounding concrete block walls about half-way completed.
Ventilation ductwork was installed through the wooden trusses.
The sanctuary's ceiling is high, sloping and arched.
A wooden framework was suspended below the trusses forming the desired shape. Drywall sheets were fastened to that framework.
Here we see the next drywall sheet being lifted to the scaffolding to be fastened into place.
Some of the church women painted the frames of the sanctuary windows and wooden moulding pieces before they were mounted in place.
The interior walls are all concrete block. To avoid a harsh institutional look, all of the interior walls were covered with a cement fill coat. When painted, this would largely hide the regular joints of the blocks.
For most of the church, this fill coat (or rendering as it's sometimes called) was finished with large coarse disc sanders.
The sanctuary and parlor, however, were finished by hand.
Here you can see how the sanded rendering coat has filled the mortar joints and low spots within blocks. The paint coat will produce a largely featureless smooth surface.
These members are painting in the northeast corner of Fellowship hall.
Doors could be installed once the walls were finished.
Grounds, Parking and the Courtyard
A proper entry drive was built and connected to Highway 56.
A large parking area was laid out. It was initially covered in gravel, and blacktopped later.
A covered entryway was added here, so drivers could let out and pick up passengers under cover on rainy Sunday mornings.
With all the construction debris cleaned out of the central courtyard, it could be planted and a gravel walkway laid out.
A fountain would be installed in that central pool.
Electrical lights were installed both inside and out.
Carpeting and tile were installed. Below we see Loren Stalcup, Ron Owen and Roy Newlin working on flooring.
Moving to the New Church
The time had finally arrived when we could start to move furniture from the old church building near the square to our new church!
Members' personal trucks were used, along with a larger truck rented to move larger loads.
The pipe organ, installed in 1927, was disassembled, refurbished, and moved to the new building.
Notice that the brass pipes have been laid across the backs of the front rows of pews.
The sanctuary of our old building downtown was originally built in 1881. The large annex in the rear and the brick veneer were added in 1923.
The building was sold to the Central Baptist congregation, who used it until 2011.
There are plans to turn it into a history museum.
Meanwhile, we were moving into and preparing to use our new building.
A fountain was added in the central courtyard.
Consecration: October 15, 1972
District Superintendent Dr. Robert Baldridge was among the first to arrive the morning of Sunday, October 15, 1972.
He was greeted by Maxine and Cliff Riester.
Congregation members soon followed.
Margaret Allred, Betty Cromwell and Marian Baldridge urged everyone to sign the guest book.
Robert Allred had been our pastor through the merger and most of the construction. He was moved to a new church and Eldon Brown appointed to take his place soon before the consecration of the new building.
Here they are both leading the procession into the sanctuary at the first service, with our Bishop and District Superintendent close behind.
The story and this picture made the local newspaper.
District Superintendent Dr. Robert Baldridge read the scripture from the new Bible.
Bishop Ralph T. Alton preached the sermon and led the consecration ceremony.
Mabel Ellis, formerly the church's organist, tries out the pipe organ in its new setting. Standing next to her was the then-current organist.
Here is the sanctuary on a Palm Sunday soon after we moved in.
A heavy curtain was initially hung over the organ's array of pipes, but it was eventually realized that the curtain muffled the sound.