Wisconsin Historical Society

Property Record

CHICAGO AND MAIN ST

Architecture and History Inventory
CHICAGO AND MAIN ST | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
NAMES
Historic Name:First Church of Christ, Scientist
Other Name:First Church of Christ, Scientist
Contributing:
Reference Number:23286
PROPERTY LOCATION
Location (Address):CHICAGO AND MAIN ST
County:Oconto
City:Oconto
Township/Village:
Unincorporated Community:
Town:
Range:
Direction:
Section:
Quarter Section:
Quarter/Quarter Section:
PROPERTY FEATURES
Year Built:1886
Additions: 1916
Survey Date:1975
Historic Use:church
Architectural Style:Gothic Revival
Structural System:
Wall Material:Board and Batten
Architect:
Other Buildings On Site:
Demolished?:No
Demolished Date:
DESIGNATIONS
National/State Register Listing Name: First Church of Christ, Scientist
National Register Listing Date:11/19/1974 12:00:00 AM
State Register Listing Date:1/1/1989 12:00:00 AM
National Register Multiple Property Name:
NOTES
Additional Information:1ST CHURCH EVER BUILT, IN THE WORLD, SPECIFICALLY FOR THIS DENOMINATION. INITIATED BY LAURA SARGENT OF OCONTO, FOLLOWER OF MARY BAKER EDDY. DOWNINGESQUE CARPENTER GOTHIC CHURCH W/STEEPLY PITCHED GABLE PEAKED ARCH WINDOWS W/WOOD SURROUNDS. WIDE OVERHANGING EAVES W/LATTICE. Basement was added in 1916.

The structure was built in three months for $1,137.20.

This church was the first house of worship in the United States built specifically for Christian Scientists. After Mary Baker Eddy established the faith in 1879, it gained an early foothold in the bustling port city of Oconto, with its diverse population and ready exposure to outside influences. In 1886, the members of Oconto’s newly organized Christian Science society, led by Rev. J.P. Norcross (later the first pastor of Eddy’s “Mother Church” in Boston), erected this wooden structure. Eddy considered it a frontier mission for spreading the faith to the newly settled Northwoods region.

Oconto’s First Christian Science Church was built in Carpenter's Gothic. Local carpenters displayed their skills as craftsmen, using lathes, jigsaws, and scroll saws to create elaborate wooden Gothic decorations. This church’s board-and-batten walls and pointed-arch windows are hallmarks of the idiom. Foliated carving graces the lintel above the double-door entry, latticework adorns the gable apex, and a gable-roofed bell cote rises from the roof ridge. About thirty years later, the congregation added a raised basement of rock-faced concrete block.

The church’s well-preserved interior is simple, with three sections of wooden seats separated by two aisles. Two lecterns stand at the front of the room: one for the Scriptures and one for Eddy’s writings.
Bibliographic References:"LUMBER ERA OCONTO TOUR" HALL, GEORGE E "A HISTORY OF OCONTO P95-97 (OCONTO 1969) EDDY, MARY BAKER G "MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS" P148-149 (BOSTON 1897) CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR "FIRST CHIRSTIAN SCIENCE EDIFICE --50TH ANNIVESARY" (BOSTON 10/31/36). Peshtigo Times 6/4/2003. West Main Street Historic District, Oconto, Wisconsin Walking Tour brochure, 1979. Buildings of Wisconsin manuscript.
RECORD LOCATION
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, Division of Historic Preservation, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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