I’m always fascinated by old, historical buildings and the mix of architectural styles that you can find in the Quad Cities area. So with Easter coming up, I decided to go in search of some of the historically important local churches in the city of Moline, Illinois. These churches began in the early days of Moline’s history. These three churches continue to operate, serving the local community, in their original locations in the downtown area.
I was immediately drawn to these three churches because of the similar brick architecture and their early impact on Moline’s religious history. Despite the various ages of these three churches, they have a timeless feel, which I think is due to their use of brick materials. All of these churches have a massive presence, gorgeous windows, and architectural features that make them unique. These three churches have also become landmarks in Moline.
Moline’s Early History
The Sauk and Meskwaki Indians were the first permanent settlers in the Moline. These Sauk and Meskwaki Indians founded the village of Saukenuk in 1720. The village of Saukenuk was along the Rock River. A factory and industrial town started along the Illinois shore of the Mississippi River in 1843. This town was originally called Rock Island Mills. When the town incorporated in 1848 the name changed to Moline.
Moline’s founding fathers were primarily from New England and their efforts attracted Swedish, Belgian, and German immigrants. Additional waves of immigrants came after World War II from France, Eastern Europe, and Mexico. This mix of diverse, cultural heritage has created an eclectic and broad range of cultural experiences to this local community.
First Lutheran Church in Moline, Illinois
For over 165 years, the First Lutheran Church has been an important part of the Moline community. The First Lutheran Church began as The Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church. In 1850, Swedish pastor, Lars Paul Esbjorn, organized the church. Construction began on the church in 1851. The church completed the building of a wooden church, measuring 24 feet by 36 feet in 1852. The First Lutheran Church was the first Swedish Lutheran church completed west of the Appalachian Mountains.
The church completed several more expansions and further construction projects to meet the demands of the community. Finally, the Church decided to build a new brick church in 1875. This is the current building that First Lutheran Church resides in today. Planning for the new church began a month later. The new church had a mix of Swedish styles, Gothic style windows, and the contemporary style of American Protestant churches in the 1870s. The traditional Swedish architectural styles added to the new church were the barrel ceiling, the semicircular shape of frescoes, the doorways, and even the hymn boards.
The original mission of the First Lutheran Church was to attract the growing population of Swedes that were moving to the Moline area and their descendants and help them in their worship of God. Today the First Lutheran Church attracts people far more multi-cultural than its original Swedish roots. The theme of the ministry is “Faithful, Liturgical, Beautiful: First Lutheran Church”, and the First Lutheran Church seeks to worship God, serve others, support one another, and invite all people to share in the Christian ministry.
Christ Church in Downtown Moline, Illinois
The Christ Church in Moline, Illinois is over 100 years old. According to the history explained on the Christ Church website, this church was originally dedicated in 1895, and the congregation still worships in the original building today! This Episcopal church was a late arrival in Moline’s early history, but the planning for this church began in the 1850’s when Moline was still a fledgling community. The Episcopalians first worshiped together in family houses and then later in other denominations’ churches. In an effort to build their own church, in 1868, a building committee formed and began fundraising efforts to create the Saint Paul’s Church. Unfortunately, funding was not readily available and the building of Saint Paul’s was not completed.
Next, the people of the Moline church met with Bishop Burgess in the Diocese of Quincy in 1891, and they organized a mission church with their first priest, Father Robert Hewitt conducting services. Over the next four years, the congregation began fundraising efforts, eventually purchasing a lot. The church constructed a simple frame building. This building was 35 feet wide by 75 feet long. The people dedicated this church as The Christ Church. Within ten years, The Christ Church acquired a rectory, added the vestry and a parishioner donated the awesome rose window.
The Christ Church began extensive renovations in 1948. During these renovations, the Church bricked the exterior frame, constructed the bell tower, and added an apse behind the original altar. The Christ Church remains committed to staying a downtown Moline, Illinois church, fulfilling the hopes and dreams of the original congregation, and ministering to the local community through the sharing of God’s word.
St Mary’s Catholic Church in Moline, Illinois
The St. Mary’s Parish was the first Catholic parish in Moline, Illinois, as well as opening a Catholic school at the parish in 1884. While I couldn’t find much information about the history of this Catholic Church, I did find some related information about the Catholic school from Illinois High School Glory Days. According to Richard Soseman, Catholic worship began in Moline as early as the 1600’s due to the visit of Fr. Marquette and Joliet in the area. The local area Catholics built the Saint Anthony parish during the 1850’s. This parish was later replaced in 1878 with Saint Mary of the Assumption.
The Catholics of Moline asked the Sisters of Charity to open a school for the children. Saint Mary’s built a one room school-house in 1884. This school quickly began to educate children in all grade levels. The school continued operating for some time until the community built additional Catholic schools. The Archdiocese decided to close the high school portion of St. Mary’s in 1949 when a new Catholic high school was built in Rock Island (Alleman). The school continued for some time with educating at the grade school level, although this eventually stopped as well.
The St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Moline, Illinois still operates today. The old school is still used for various parish purposes.
I’d love to hear from you if you’ve been to any of these churches. Also, let me know if you have any suggestions on other historical buildings or churches that I should photograph for my Documenting the Quad Cities project. Let me know in the comments below! All of these prints are available on Society 6, simply click on the photo of the piece you like and it will take you directly to the shop!