First United Methodist Church (built as First Methodist Episcopal during 1899-1900) stands a block north of the northwest corner of the Chariton square.
How can you help but love what undoubtedly is Chariton's finest unaltered 19th Century public building?
Construction of this late Gothic Revival wonder began 18 June 1899 and was completed by 8 July 1900. The architect was Samuel A. Bullard of Springfield, Ill., one of the nation's leading architects of that time with a multi-state client list. It was constructed of Bedford stone with a slate roof and cost $18,000, excluding windows and lighting.
This is a view along the west facade of First United Methodist Church, looking south.
The stone work is superb, the detail beautifully executed, the stained glass windows just right. Everything works.
Stained glass in giant gothic arches on both the west and south facades lights the main sanctuary.
The frosting on that cake is that it's been beautifully maintained and it hasn't been altered. That's not always been the case in southern Iowa. Centerville has a wonderful old Methodist church, but the congregation there allowed structural problems to creep up on them and lately has been tearing itself apart in a squabble about whether it should be repaired or replaced. The Knoxville Methodist church, a wonderful Richardson Romanesque structure, still looks good, but it's been patched and poked at and a rather odd educational wing intended to complement the original building tacked onto one side. The protective glass added to that church's huge windows is foggy, giving the whole structure a blind look.
Here's the corner stone of First United Methodist Church. "1899" is carved on the south face of this stone.
None of those problems have developed in Chariton. The educational wing that replaced the old parsonage just east of the church during 1962 makes no effort to compete with the original building, or to pretend that it's anything it isn't.
Wonderful stone work is evident everywhere you look at First United Methodist.
It's a wonderful building and deserves its place on the National Register of Historic Places.
Note: A sympathetic addition has been made since this was written to the north end of the original building, but it does not distract in any way from it.