The second oldest church in Cleveland, Old Stone Church, was founded at a time when Cleveland was just a village of a few hundred people.
This month, the downtown landmark is celebrating their 200th anniversary with an impressive history that’s intertwined with the city.
“Not until you really step into that setting and you hear what that room sounds like, there’s that saying they just don’t build them like they use to,” says church member, Ian Atwood.
Atwood has been singing in the Old Stone Church choir for about 14 years and is still astonished by the remarkable history that’s passed through those walls.
“You can’t help but be kind of swept up in the stature of a church like that,” says Atwood. “It’s a blessing to be in a space like that. It’s impressive.”
“It was called the Stone Church, a meeting at the Stone Church, well gradually it began to be called the Old Stone Church and that’s how we have our name,” says the church’s historian, Don Guenther.
Established as the First Presbyterian Church of Cleveland in 1820, the Old Stone congregation is celebrating their 200th anniversary this year. The church itself also has quite the history with a facade, comprised of Berea sandstone, dating back to 1853 and interior going back to 1884. To tell the history of Old Stone Church, would be to tell the history of the city of Cleveland.
“The names associated with Old Stone Church is pretty incredible. Amasa Stone and Leonard Case, the Case Western Reserve that we have today is because of both of those men to a great extent," says Guenther. "Higbee, the Severance Family, if you go to Tremont and drive down Starkweather, those are all part of the Old Stone family.”
Past members also helped to start the first public school in Cleveland, as well as the YMCA. The church’s bell served as a warning to runaway slaves that bounty hunters were near and rang during the local memorial service, when President Lincoln’s funeral train stopped. The church also held the funeral for President Garfield, after he was assassinated. It’s a storied past that struck a chord with Ian and his family.
“We couldn’t be prouder to have our names on it and be a part of it,” says Atwood. “By becoming members, we’ve become a part of that history.”
It’s a history they couldn’t help but embrace and a future history they’re anxious to help create.
Atwood continued, “That history is grandiose, but the history of the church continues to evolve. That first 200 years, that was just the start.”
Old Stone Church will recognize their 200 year anniversary with a virtual service on Sunday, September 20th.
For more information, visit their website by clicking here.