One of the oldest Protestant congregations in Utah, First United Methodist Church first officially met in Salt Lake City on May 22, 1870. The Reverend Lewis Hartsough was the first Methodist missionary to arrive in the Salt Lake Valley in December of 1869. Considered the “Father of Methodism in Utah,” Rev. Hartsough became the Methodist Mission Superintendent in Utah and composed many church hymns and songs. Rev.
Hartsough preached his first sermon in an adobe building located at 21 West 300 South, known as Independence Hall, in December 1869.
In the spring of 1870, Rev. Hartsough returned to the East for the purpose of obtaining men and money for the Mission in Utah. He secured the services of the Reverend Gustavus M. Peirce from the Central New York Conference, who returned with him to become the founding pastor of
First Methodist Episcopal Church of Salt Lake City. Rev. Peirce arrived in Utah on May 8, 1870. Rev. Peirce delivered his first sermon in Independence Hall on May 15, 1870. Faust’s Hall & Houtz Livery Stable, an unfinished hay loft over a livery barn was the first official meeting place of the church. It was located on 200 South between Main & State Street (where the Gallivan Center is now). The first meeting was held May 22, 1870 with forty people in attendance and was rented at fifty dollars a month. Rev. Peirce called it “an exorbitant amount, but our only chance.” The first Sunday School met in Faust’s Hall on June 12, 1870 with three teachers. The first church festival, held June 18 with six hundred present cleared three hundred dollars. That same year Rev. Peirce began the Methodist contribution of education in Utah by opening a school known as the Rocky Mountain Seminary. Within two years, the school had an impressive enrollment of 220 pupils, and it remained open until 1893. He organized churches and schools in Salt Lake City, Corinne, Tooele, Beaver, Provo and Evanston, Wyoming.
In 1871, a site was secured at 33 East Third South and the congregation’s first permanent church home was built. The original First Methodist Episcopal Church served an ever-changing congregation from 1871 until 1906 under twenty different pastors. The basement rooms were used for both church and seminary purposes until the structure was completed and dedicated in August of 1875.
In 1905, the church purchased its present site, located on the southeast corner of Second South and Second East. The historic building which now houses First United Methodist Church represents a Victorian Eclectic architectural style designed by Frederick Albert Hale, a prominent Utah architect from 1890 to 1934. The appearance of the FUMC building has remained the same since its completion in 1906. Mr. Hale designed mansions along South Temple, as well as numerous downtown commercial structures, reflecting his strong association with the city’s leading citizens. However, First United Methodist was the only church he designed in Utah. Dispensing with more traditional Gothic design, Mr. Hale designed an interior space that could seat hundreds, while fostering rapport between the minister and his congregation. First United Methodist is the only example of an “auditorium” style design in the state used for worship purposes.
Merkel, Henry Martin, History of Methodism inUtah. The Dentan Printing Co. Colorado Springs. 1938.