West Ridge United Methodist Church
The first service of this church was held on January 13, 1924, in the old, dilapidated West Ridge Town Hall, located one-half block east of the church's present location at what is now the Lunt Playlot Park, 2239 W. Lunt Avenue. Dr. Walter B. Grimes, church founder, lead the service and did the preaching.
A friend of the church, Dr. John Thompson, chairman of the Chicago Home Missionary and Church Extension Society, helped secure $30,000 which was used to erect the first building, designed by Rowe, Dillard, & Rowe, this unit resembled a two-flat building, and its second floor is now the location of the chancel (alter and choir area). The ground breaking ceremony was held on January 13, 1925, one year after the church was founded.
The worship center in the first unit of the church building was known as the Upper Room and served until 1936. Early church members recall this room had a fireplace between the fire escape door and a window. This year was pivotal in the history of the church. Reverend Paul Grimes, son of Dr. Walter B. Grimes began his 34 year tenure (1936-1970).
The first major change that came after Reverend Grimes took over from his father was the construction of the Community House in 1936. Over the years, the Sunday School had grown to a membership of 230 and the original building was too small. To help accommodate growing education and social programs, a portable army chapel was purchased and assembled on the south section of the lot. This was a temporary fix to an increasing problem. Growing pains were finally relieved by the erection of the Community House. This garage-type building cost $6,000, but with close supervision of the construction by the men of the church, the result was a substantial building that added enough space to meet the needs of the growing congregation.
One of the features of the new building was the Community Room. It had high ceilings and a high stage with wings and cabinets beneath the state for storage of long tables. Since the construction of the Community House, the aforementioned Upper Room has been used as a general meeting room and as a place for bible studies.
In 1948, a new sanctuary--the Sanctuary Beautiful--was built and dedicated. The builder was E.F. Jansson of Chicago. The sanctuary altar of yellow Sienna Marble, imported from Sienna Italy, was given by A.G. Knudsen, former secretary of the Marble Association of America and owner of the Enterprise Marble Company of Chicago. Mr. Knudsen picked this particular color because of the red tones that show through the yellow, which, to him, was symbolic of the suffering of Christ on the Cross.
The purchase of the parsonage on Lunt Avenue in 1956 was due, in great part, to a sizable donation by the Spanjer Family and the generosity of Hal Gibbs who made the property available at a price the church could afford.
In 1964, the church basement was remodeled to include the Fred J. Grede Memorial Office built for Reverend Grimes. The original church office was enlarged and turned into the Richie Nursery, in memory of Mr. and Mrs. David T. Richie. Grimes Hall, dedicated to the founder of the church, was also constructed in the basement.
Other church improvements made in 1964 included narthex renovations that were dedicated to David T. Richie for his distinguished service to the church. The ornate wooden cross hanging above the chancel altar was given by the Spanjer Family in May 1964. It was custom designed and hand crafted in their wood lettering firm and dedicated to a family member.
The Reverend Paul Grimes retired in 1970, but returned to preach on special occasions. A most notable sermon was delivered on January 13, 1974, at the church's 50th Anniversary Celebration. Reverend Grimes, who spent his entire life as a part of the West Ridge United Methodist community, died two weeks after delivering this sermon.
Another wave of remodeling and donations took place in the early 1990s. The nursery in the basement was enlarged in 1991 and rededicated as the Fred L. Coy Memorial Nursery. The Rodgers Instruments Company organ in the sanctuary was contributed in loving memory of Marilyn M. Jarger and her parents, Alvin and Lenora Bevier on August 30, 1992.
In 1992, the Church observed its 75th Anniversary with a year-long celebration. The pastor, at that time was Reverend Erica Robinson-Johnson, who began serving the church in October 2000.