TPPC's Past

Our Church's History

Picture of Union Chapel As part of our celebration of the 125th anniversay of our church, the Property Committee will be producing short histories of the past decade by decade. They will be added to this site as they are produced.

Note: Links with the text "(PDF)" require the Adobe Reader to access the URL, which is available free from Adobe.

TPPC's Architectural Journey

The Little Free Library on Maple Avenue is a replica of Union Chapel. The large stone sanctuary at the corner was built in 1923 with a matching stone facade covering the front of Union Chapel, to create a more imposing structure.

Union Chapel continued to serve as the city's community center until being torn down in 1949. It was replaced by the existing Education Building. The gym and Fellowship Hall on Tulip Avenue, with its Mid-century Modern design elements, was completed in 1962 on the site of Takoma Park's first public school.

Pondering Our Past (P.O.P.)

The Property Committee highlighs bits of our church's past (and present).

POP Index

  1. Alpha and Omega
  2. In the beginning, we were not Presbyterians
  3. 1915 Campaign for a New Edifice.
  4. What's buried in our cornerstone?
  5. Windows that Move!
  6. Windows that Did Not Move!
  7. Mine Eyes Look to the Ceiling

Alpha and Omega

For this week's P.O.P., we will start, literally, with the beginning ... and the end.

In three places in the sanctuary, you can see the Greek letters "alpha" and "omega":

  1. on the small wooden stands on either side of the lectern,
  2. on the screen above the choir loft, and
  3. in the stained glass windows in the Tulip Ave. balcony.

Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet and are found in several verses in Revelations ( , , and ) where God or Jesus are described as being "the alpha and the omega," or the first and the last, the beginning and the end. These symbols are often thought to show that God is eternal.

One more interesting note: Alpha and Omega are considered the symbol for the New Covenant Messiah and a menorah is a symbol of the Old Covenant Messiah. A stained glass menorah (7-branched, not the 9-branched of Chanakuh) can also be found in the Tulip Ave. balcony.

Small Wooded Stand with greek Alpha symbol   Intertwined Alpha and Omega (located in the Tulip Ave. balcony stained glass window)   7-branched menorah (located in the Tulip Ave. balcony stained glass window).

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In the beginning, we were not Presbyterians.

In 1889, a year after Takoma Park was founded, residents began to worship in a tent at the corner of Maple and Tulip Aves. (on land donated by developer B.F. Gilbert). Services were non-denominational and rotated among pastors of different religious affiliations. One neighbor would wheel a small organ over in a wheelbarrow for the services.

A church-building campaign began with participants pledging $1 monthly payments. The Union Chapel was built in 1890 (located where the Education Building is now).

In 1893, because of the Chapel's on-going financial problems, the Presbyterians were approached by members and agreed to take over the building.

Fourth of July Parade, 1918   Union Chapel, located were the Education Building is now located

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1915 Campaign for a New Edifice.

1915 Brochure Cover Within 22 years, our congregation had outgrown the original church building. In 1915 we had 324 members and 400 children enrolled in Sunday School. Members began a capital campaign to raise funds for a new edifice to be built on church-owned land at the corner of Tulip and Maple.

The campaign was put on hold during the World War, but enough funds were raised by 1922 to allow construction to begin. In the brochure outlining plans for the new building, members stated:

"A CHURCH FOR THE WHOLE COMMUNITY. The Takoma Park Presbyterian Church stands for the intellectual, moral, and spiritual uplift of the community . . . This church aspires to provide a place where all forces for the good of our community may unite on a broad and liberal foundation.”

This is a copy of the 1915 brochure. As you can see, the church's design changed when it was actually built in 1922.

   Link to Page 1 of the 1915 brochure   Link to Page 2 of the 1915 brochure   Link to Page 3 of the 1915 brochure

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What's buried in our corner stone?

TPPC Corner StoneOn July 30, 1922, the church held a special service to lay the corner stone and begin construction of our current sanctuary building. How firm is the foundation upon which we worship? Contents of the Corner Stone include, in part:

For an extra splash of panache, they also anointed the Corner Stone with olive oil.

For the complete list of items, click here.

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Windows that Move!

Windows That Moved, the Soldier's Memorial Windows When the current Sanctuary was completed in 1923, it had two very ornate stained glass windows installed over the choir loft framed by impressive banks of organ pipes. The "Soldier's Memorial Windows" honored the 55 members of the congregation who served in World War I (or "The World War" as it was then referred because no one thought just 20 years later we would have an even bigger World War, but I digress.) You can see photos of the original placement on the church website and Facebook page.

Where are the windows now? They were moved to the eastern wall of the church facing the playground. Why? Stay tuned.

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Windows That Did Not Move!

Windows that did not move The stained glass windows in our Sanctuary were created and installed in 1924, by Leonard Boertlein, founder of the Washington Art Glass Studio in Capitol Heights, Maryland. The rectangular panes of muted blue, pink, and grey glass experimentally streaked with baked-in black carbon were installed as a temporary, cost-cutting measure. The idea was that the windows would gradually be replaced by more ornate stained glass windows as money came in to fund them (presumably from more memorial funds). Over time, though, the windows remained and the congregation has grown to appreciate the glass' beauty and simplicity.

When the windows needed to be repaired in 2002, the work was done by Mr. Boertlein's son and grandson (John and Jed Boertlein) using some of the original glass left-over from the installation done 75 years earlier!

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Mine Eyes Look to the Ceiling

ceiling of TPPC sanctuary The ceiling in the Sanctuary is decorated with several gold-painted symbols located within a larger blue circle: a circle, a triangle, and three interlocking ovals (more precisely "vesica piscis") known as a triquetra.

The triquetra and triangle typically symbolize the Holy Trinity of Creator, Christ, and Holy Ghost. The circle—without a beginning or end—represents unity, wholeness, and infinity. Placing the trinity symbols within the circle within a larger circle perhaps depicts the unknowable and indefinable aspects of divinity that surpass and baffle our rational minds. That's one way of looking at them, anyway.

On a more practical level, you might wonder how the light bulbs get replaced up there. In the balcony on the Maple Ave. side is a small entrance to the ceiling that can be reached by ladder. Once inside, the brave bulb-changer must carefully traverse the dark and crowded space of the dropped ceiling to reach the light fixture.

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