Ada congregation to rebuild on old church site

March fire destroyed the 113-year-old building

2/4/2013
BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The First United Methodist Church at 301 N. Main St. was destroyed by fire in March.
The First United Methodist Church at 301 N. Main St. was destroyed by fire in March.

ADA, Ohio — A congregation whose historic church burned last year will rebuild on the same site.

Ada First United Methodist Church chose its longtime spot on the corner of North Main and Highland streets in the Hardin County village of Ada to build its church, which could be finished by 2015.

A March fire destroyed the 113-year-old church and required its more than 300 members to relocate Sunday worship to the English Chapel at Ohio Northern University. But the church is planning to return to its historic site and is reviewing plans for a building project budgeted at about $5 million.

Bob McCurdy, chairman of the church’s building committee, said the congregation “didn’t miss a beat” after the fire. Members quickly reorganized and started considering where to rebuild. The church is made up of “amazing people and amazing families,” he said.

“Some are still emotional, but I think we’ve moved beyond that, and I think people are really focused on the future,” Mr. McCurdy said.

The future will bring a new building to the old site. Church officials considered five Ada locations but ruled out the alternatives because of extensive development costs, access issues, and community sentiment toward the historic location, Mr. McCurdy said.

The church is working with RCM Architects of Findlay to design the structure, likely to be two stories and roughly 25,000 square feet.

Plans include a fellowship hall with a kitchen and a worship space “smaller in size” from the old space but still “sacred in nature,” Mr. McCurdy said. Room to accommodate a child-care program and services are among the most significant changes from the historic church.

A Head Start program had been located in the building, though church officials don’t know yet if the program would return when its facility is finished.

Mr. McCurdy said the church envisions possibly providing community child-care services, and the building will offer more space for Christian education.

The result will be a fresh architectural approach, he said. The new church will emphasize a more “open, front-porch kind of feeling” with plenty of windows.

“Our other church, as beautiful as it was, kind of presented itself as a fortress, very typical of the old stone buildings,” he said.

Only a small number of items were salvaged from the fire wreckage, including small pieces of exterior stone that are in storage in case the stones can be incorporated into the new design.

The church also retrieved a charred cross, some papers, and the bell, which was damaged but might be displayed as part of a memorial.

The decision to rebuild at the old site is welcome news for the community that regularly used the church for events, said Deb Curlis, president of the Ada Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s fantastic news because otherwise it would have been an empty parking-lot space,” Ms. Curlis said. “We would much rather have a beautiful building back downtown.”

The church plans require review and approvals from the denomination’s district office, Mr. McCurdy said. Construction could begin early next year.

The church plans to pay for the project mainly through its insurance settlement as well as donations. A state fire marshal investigation could not determine the fire’s origin because of the massive amount of damage.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.