First United Methodist Church, from Church Street The original United Methodist Church building on Main Street, 1916. First United Methodist Church, from St. Bernard Street The original United Methodist Church building, 1960s. Address: 63 Church Street

Old Address: 19 Church Street

Other names: First Methodist Episcopal Church

Year built: First building: 1881-1886; Second building: 1925-27

Architect: Charles W. Bolton & Son of Philadelphia.

"In 1836 or 1837, a Mr. Adams who had previously been a hard drinking man, converted to the Christian life and started to hold meetings of his fellow settlers for scripture and prayer. This was the beginning of a Christian congregation, so the conference voted to appoint a preacher for the area.

"In 1839, Samuel Smith was brought to the Saranac Mission as a 'circuit-preacher.' He held meetings on various Sundays [in private homes] in Saranac Lake, North Elba, Bloomingdale, Franklin Falls, Union Falls, Merrillsville, Vermontville and West Harrietstown. People came from all over to these meetings — some in boats, some with ox-team and some just plain walking. In 1840 there were about 75 members in the church. With people leaving, it was reduced to about 40.

"The preacher's salary in 1839 and 1840 was $200 a year and the next two years it was $100. The preacher was obliged to cut his own firewood, raise a garden, keep a horse for his circuit-riding and a cow for milk, cut hay for them and fish and hunt to supply meat for his family. When his salary was cut to $100, he started teaching school. During these years the contributions of church members varied between $40 and $60.

"In 1842 Mr. Westcott was appointed to the Mission. He was followed by several other men. In 1850 a church was built in Vermontville.

"In 1856 Saranac Lake was a settlement of about 15 scattered families. There were two widely separated schools, one "in the pines" where the railroad runs and the other "on the hill" out towards the Algonquin. Church services were held in the school building "in the pines."

"Since contributions from the Missionary Society had amounted to about $2000 over a period of 10 to 15 years in 1871, it was decided to divide the mission into two charges. Saranac Lake, Lake Placid and West Harrietstown were one with the other settlements being the second charge. Mr. Graves preached every Sunday at Saranac Lake in the morning and on alternate Sundays at Lake Placid and Harrietstown in the afternoon or evenings. This meant he had about 25 miles to cover on horseback.

"In 1874 a house for the parsonage was completed. Mr. Spoor, the man sent that year, describes the house as being 'without doorsteps or piazza and surrounded by old logs, brush and boulders so that it was difficult to approach it with a team. The lower part of the house was partly furnished and two rooms were papered. The cellar walls were unfinished, and there was water on the floor. The bedrooms unfinished and unpainted had no doors. There was no barn on the premises to accommodate my horse.' With the help of the men in the congregation, Mr. Spoor succeeded in making the house liveable and built a barn. The women of the church held 'sociables' to raise money for supplies. Mr. Spoor's successor, Mr. Coons, continued his work.

"In 1877 there was talk of building a Union Church on the lot where later the . . . Methodist Church . . . [would be built], "but nothing came of that." The congregation was incorporated in 1878. "The building of the Methodist Church started in 1881 [on the lot on Main Street just west of Dr. Trudeau's house]. A resolution was passed that work should go no further than there was money to pay for it. In 1886 the basement was finished off and the first services were held there. In the summer of 1886 the resolution not to go in debt for the building was set aside and the audience room was finished and furnished. The dedication of the church building was held on Dec. 8, 1886. The church had a debt of less than $500.

"In the summer of 1888, the old parsonage at Saranac Lake was sold, and a piece of land was bought for the new one. The new parsonage was completed in the summer of 1889 and was built on the present site of where the stone church stands. When the work to build the stone church began, the parsonage was moved back to its present location [on St. Bernard's Street] behind the stone church.

"In 1896 the church was enlarged and rededicated on June 28. Around 1905 or 1906 electric lights were installed.

"On May 11, 1922 two years after the Rev. E. B. Brownell became pastor, the official board met to discuss building a new church. A canvass was conducted to find ways and means of raising the necessary funds.

"In the summer of 1924 and into 1925, plans were pushing forward. The corner of Church and St. Bernard's streets was chosen as the site for the new, [Gothic Revival inspired] church. It was voted to sell the old church, valued at $35,000, to the Odd Fellows" [in 1925. From 1961 to 1963 the old church was used as a summer theatre, though its first such use dates to June, 1952. 1 It was torn down in 1967 to make a parking lot for the Hotel Saranac. "The old barn was sold for $50. It was decided to make the new church from stone. Excavation began, and the contract was awarded to a local firm [Branch & Callanan]. The cornerstone was laid on Oct. 8, 1925. Funds were solicited both inside and outside the membership of the church. The Harry Lauder Concert Benefit, netting $8,700, was given with the help of William Morris," [and loans were obtained].

"The church was finished in the spring of 1927 at a cost of $135,000. Dedication took place on April 3, 1927. The pastor was E. B. Brownell."

From an article in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, December 6, 2002. Information credited to Kay Pedroni Neveau from her mother, Gussie Pedroni, and Ruth Kern.

Essex County Republican, May 21, 1896


May 18.--Ground will be broken this (Monday) morning for enlarging the Methodist Episcopal Church, which is too small for the growing congregations. A large force of workmen will be put on the job, so that it will be completed before the middle of June. The church is looking forward for a blessed year under the leadership of their new pastor.

Plattsburgh Republican, January 4, 1908

Improvements costing $1,300 have been made to the Methodist Church at Saranac Lake. New stained glass windows, eight of them memorial windows, have been put in.

Malone Farmer, March 23, 1927


Sunday morning the First Methodist church at Saranac Lake was filled nearly to capacity when an organ given by Mrs. Phoebe Durgan, of Saranac Lake and West Palm Beach, Fla., in memory of her husband, John Durgan, was played for the first time. A specially selected program was given by Mrs. Alice French Gallup, organist.

In connection with playing of the organ the choir, numbering 22 members, appeared for the first time in vestments.

Installation of the organ was completed Saturday. It is of the three manual electro-pneumatic type with detached console and chimes and contains 1,222 pipes, the smallest of which is one-half inch in length and of thickness of a lead pencil, and the four largest, 16 feet long, 12 inches wide and 10 inches thick. Three weeks were required to complete the installation.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 3, 1963

Methodist Church Celebrates 125 Years in Saranac Lake

The First Methodist Church of Saranac Lake is celebrating its 125th Anniversary. It is the big stone church on the corner of Church and St. Bernard Streets.

One of the founders of the church was Jacob Moody, the first white settler in Saranac Lake and the first minister here in 1838 was Rev. Samuel Smith.

A Mr. Adams first held meetings in 1836 for prayer and scripture reading and when it became evident that a Christian congregation was beginning here, a preacher was appointed for this area.

Rev. Smith was a circuit-preacher and held meetings on different Sundays at Bloomingdale, Franklin Falls. Vermontville and many places in his charge.

The area and Saranac Lake continued to grow and in 1856 about fifteen families were settled here with two schools. The village boasted two schools, one in "the pines" above Pine Street where it parallels the railroad track and one near the present site of the Algonquin School. Church services were then held in the school buildings.

The first Methodist Church building was dedicated in December, 1886 and stands today as the Odd Fellows Hall and Summer Theatre on Main Street.

When the congregation outgrew the wooden church plans were started which would bring about construction of the present stone church.

The old church was sold to the Odd fellows for $35,000 and a contract for the new building was awarded to Branch and Callanan. The cornerstone was laid in October. 1925 and work was completed in the spring of 1927 at a cost of $135,000.

The revolving cross on the church was donated by John R. Freer. The stone for the church was given by the Lemoy family, the organ by Mrs. J. R. Durban, pulpit furniture by Mr. and Mrs. Walter Jenkins and the hymn rack by Mr. and Mrs. W. B. Scott. This includes only a partial list of some gifts to the church, other than money.

The present pastor is Dr. Lionel R. Driscoll. He and Mrs. Driscoll have written a poem for this 125th anniversary, the last verse of which we print here:

"Let the Lighted Cross Remind Atop the Church so bright and tall Tells to man, Christ' highest blessings, Await within for one and all."

Church Bulletin, February 15, 1914 Preachers:

Other Sources:

Other historic properties


2011-04-23 12:17:40   Also Mrs. Sargent gave dance lessons in the basement. The Summer Theater was on the ground level and was run by Joan Frank. —


1. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, June 13, 1952