First Christian Church: God’s Home With a Dome

Founded in 1855, just two years after the Army abandoned its Fort Worth, First Christian Church is Cowtown’s oldest continuously operating church. Fifteen people, including the town’s first doctor,  Carroll Peak, and wife Florence, founded the church, which first met in the Peak home. John Peter Smith also was a member of the church. The church’s first pastor was A. M. Dean, an itinerant farm worker who carried a hymnal and a pistol. Later pastors included Mansell Matthews. Joseph Clark and sons Addison and Randolph, founders of the college that became TCU, also preached at the church.

The congregation later bought the block bounded by Main, Houston, 4th, and 5th streets for $200 and built a wood-frame church. Later that church was replaced by a brick building.

FCC old

In 1871 the congregation moved to its current location at Throckmorton and 6th streets and in 1878 built a stone church there. That building was enlarged in 1892, but a few years into the twentieth century First Christian Church again needed a new home. (Image from Greater Fort Worth, 1907.)

FCC cornerstone 3-21-15 stThe cornerstone for the new building was laid March 21, 1915. Major Khleber Miller Van Zandt, chairman of the church board, had joined the church soon after it was organized. Clip is from the March 21 Star-Telegram.

FCC 11-21-14 dmnThis sketch from the November 21, 1914 Dallas Morning News shows the architects’ rendering of the new building. Note the cupolas. Six were planned by the architects: one on each corner of the building and two flanking the 6th Street portico.

FCC spread 12-19-15 stIn a December 19, 1915 Star-Telegram feature on the building as it was nearing completion, note that the cupolas seen in the 1914 DMN sketch are gone. Those six cupolas, like the twin steeples of St. Patrick Cathedral, didn’t get built, much to the disappointment of FCC architect E. W. Van Slyke.

FCC van slyke 3-19-16 stHowever, Van Slyke didn’t hold a grudge. In fact, he was one of the first people to be baptized in the new church’s baptistery, which he designed! Clip is from the March 19, 1916 Star-Telegram.

FCC opening 3-6-16 stThe building was completed in early 1916, and the first sermon was preached on March 5. Major Van Zandt recalled that Fort Worth had only about two hundred people when he moved to town in 1865. Clip is from the March 6 Star-Telegram.

Fcc 1920 TCC NEView from the Waggoner Building in 1920 shows First Christian Church when it had some elbow room. You can see the six bases for the cupolas that were not built. North of the church on Throckmorton Street are the Chamber of Commerce Auditorium (where the congregation met while its new home was under construction) and William Capps’s Denver-Record Building. Also behind First Christian Church is First Presbyterian Church (What Sunday Looked Like a Century Ago). The Fort Worth Club Building and Worth Hotel would not be built on the block south of the church for a few years. (Photo from Tarrant County College NE.)

Some views of First Christian Church:

first christian wide

look up dome first christian insidewindow first christianwindow first christian 2column first christian ioniclight first christianchurch first christian frontcolumn corinthian first christian

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7 Responses to First Christian Church: God’s Home With a Dome

  1. Cindy Belden says:

    Our family joined FCC in 1984. We played softball and volleyball in the church league and started a fellowship group with other young adults/families, many of whom are still there. I sang in the choir under Charles Duke and made many life long friends. When we left Fort Worth, leaving the church was the most difficult part. We still come to church when we visit Fort Worth, which isn’t often enough.

  2. margie henderson says:

    I am going to visit today with my son and dau-in-law. I am thrilled because I think this is the same church my mother played the piana and was baptized in. I did the history on it years ago, and if it is the one created by the Clarks, despaigns ect Add Rans, then this is my husband’s people and there was a feud over the music instrument, and they went on to Palestine and established the church there, but my mother, who was Ruth Elizabeth Parks and lived on First Street and also at 3 years on Riverside, went to church there and played the piana. I would like to hear from anyone who knows something about the history of the church.
    Margie (Mays) Henderson
    I was born in Fort Worth at my grandmother’s house but never lived there, recently moved to Tarrant Co and live in Watauga. I am 82 years old.
    Thanks

  3. thanks for this interesting post. I am a member of FCC for the last 8 years or so. My wife and I joined and were married in this church. We’ve made some great friends and have got active with this church. It has been a great place to grow our faith and help others. We would love your readers to join us and check out the great music, enlightening sermons, and wonderful opportunities to volunteer and help others. Also feel free to just take a tour of the building if you’d like to learn more.

    It is wonderful reading this info and learning more about our FCCs history. Great photos by the way. I’m wondering if we might be able to use some of these photos if we give tge photographer credit and link to their site (or this article). Let us know. Thanks again and great article!

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Mr. Berkebile. I was fortunate to be asked if I wanted to see the inside of the building one day as I was taking pictures on the east portico. Feel free to use any of my photos.

  4. Debbie Hill McLean says:

    This is the church I grew up in from the time that I was 6 weeks old. I was baptized there and married there on 3/31/90. My grandmother Mary Rainbolt was a lifelong member until she passed away in 2008. I also sang in the choir!

  5. Rebecca reed toal says:

    My husband and I were marries in the church on June 19, 1970. I sang in the church choir under the direction of my former high school choir director, Charles Duke. The beautiful church sanctuary was the perfect place to begin our life together. The wonderful ladies of the church served a lovely reception after the service. It was a perfect setting to begin our 45 years together. The congregation members have always been the “heart” of this beautiful church.

  6. Mellinda Timblin says:

    Thank you. I’m feeling much better now. Stained glass does it every time

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