Barton Road Church
If you like a good mystery, this beautiful, historic church building is still a bit of a mystery, even today. Many of us refer to it as the old Barton Road Church because of its original location on the corner of Lorain and Barton Roads at the west end of North Olmsted. But this was never an official name. One of the only references to this church’s original name, the Methodist Episcopal Church of Butternut Ridge, comes from a deed that was written on January 11, 1873 to deed the property from the original Methodist Episcopal Church of Butternut Ridge to the newly formed First Congregational Church Society of Butternut Ridge. North Olmsted historian L. Ellis Paddock wrote "this church was known to the Methodist Conference as the Briggs Church." The reason it was called Briggs Church is that it was named after the gentleman on whose land the church was built.
This church was built in approximately 1847 on land owned by Mr. Amos Briggs. According to Crisfield Johnson’s History of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, written in 1879, Amos arrived in Kingston in 1817. (The area we now know as North Olmsted started in 1816 as Kingston, became Lenox in 1823, in 1830 was changed to Olmstead.) He purchased land on the north east corner of Butternut Ridge and Ridgeville (today known as Lorain and Barton Roads).
In 1833, a Methodist Episcopal Church was formed of which Amos and his family were members. This church met, along with two other denominations (Presbyterians and Universalists), in a building called the Union House of Worship, that was situated in the area of present day Columbia and Butternut Ridge Roads. The area was known as Town House Corners. There has been much confusion over the years as to where exactly Town House Corners was located. Several local historians have recorded that it was located where the Briggs Church stood. But in time L. Ellis Paddock was able to solve this part of the mystery when, in 1967, he wrote , "The original Union House of Worship was erected at the juncture of Butternut Ridge and Columbia Road…..The Methodists, who had built a church in Olmsted Falls in 1843, as part of the newly pushed center, mostly went to Olmsted Falls, but there were a few in the west end of Olmsted who had pretty far to go, and Amos Briggs, who played host to Methodist ministers, donated the use of the property on the corner across from his home, at Lorain and Barton Road. On this, "Briggs Church", as it was known to the Methodist Conference, was erected."
In 1847 the Methodists and Universalists broke from this arrangement and built their own churches. Amos Briggs donated a portion of his land for the purpose of building a church to accommodate the Methodists. Tax records for Amos Briggs show that the value of his property more than tripled in 1847. This increase in taxes is an indication that a building had been erected on the property. But the exact date that the church was built still remains a mystery. There is also an undated deed in which Amos and his wife Nancy deeded this portion of their property to the trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church for the purpose of erecting a house of worship. According to Paddock, the property had belonged to Briggs until 1850 when he deeded it over to the Trustees of the Methodist Church.
The Methodists met in this simple, one room church building until 1868. Olmsted Historical Society member Mr. Bill Elliott (who is a direct descendant of the Briggs family) has in his possession an attendance book from this Methodist Church that dates from 1833 until 1868. It lists all the names of the members of the congregation and their attendance, and not much more. Although it does make one brief mention that on November 2, 1851, Mr. John Baldwin, founder of Baldwin College in Berea, Ohio (a Methodist institution), gave the sermon.
In 1868 the members of the Methodist congregation disbanded and moved on to other church facilities. In 1871 the building was purchased for use by the First Congregational Church, located in Olmsted Falls. Mr. Newell Nelson and Mr. Richard Carpenter were instrumental in the purchase of the old Briggs Church building. They felt, along with many of the members of the First Congregational Church who resided in Olmsted, that it was too far to be traveling to the Falls for church. Therefore they purchased the building on the corner of Butternut and Ridgeville, and it became the First Congregational Church Society of Butternut Ridge, later to be known as the Second Congregational Church of Olmsted.
In the years to follow, the congregation began to grow, and it was decided that expansion of the building would be necessary. The basement was dug out and built in 1886. Between the years of 1895 to 1903 many changes were made to the original structure, completely changing it’s appearance to what was most familiar to people today. There was a dedication ceremony held in 1903 to dedicate the new additions, such as the Eldred Chapel, the new bell tower, and the beautiful stained glass windows that adorned the sanctuary. The church also became incorporated in 1900 and was then named the North Olmsted Congregational Church. In May of 1964, a dedication took place for a new church facility that was built just east of the original building. On April 26, 1964 the very last Sunday service was held in the old church building.
During the 1970’s the membership of the North Olmsted Congregational Church began to fade, and eventually the doors were closed. The property was rented to other churches in the years that followed, but the original Briggs building began to fall into disrepair.
In the fall of 2003, the most recent owner of the property at the corner of Barton and Lorain Roads, Holy Resurrection Ukrainian Orthodox Church, graciously donated this beautiful building to the Olmsted Historical Society, to be moved to the historic village at the Frostville Museum. The Society gladly accepted this gift, and with the help of many of it’s members and friends in and around the community, the Cleveland Metroparks, and others, on June 21, 2005, we were able to move the most historic part of this building, the original portion built by Amos Briggs back in the 1840’s, to Frostville.
The loving renovation of this church will be an ongoing project. It is the goal of the Society to restore it to what it would have looked like when it was built in 1847. Ultimately it will be renovated, and will be available for public use.