In 1869 the Reverend Harvey Webb was appointed by the Methodist Conference to organize a church at Duluth. On July 30, 1871 the growing congregation moved into its first permanent church on West Second Street. This first generation of Methodists brought the young Duluth community together with their preaching, teaching, and music. By 1889 First Methodist Episcopal Church had 490 members who began making plans for a new building.
Built for the princely sum of $120,000, the 1,800-seat brownstone church was constructed above the old wooden church and was dedicated on February 5, 1893.
The legacy of the Third Street church is rich and varied, and “the Meth” engaged society with energy. Soon the congregation provided for a Community House to extend the scope and reach of the church’s mission. This building was dedicated on September 20, 1925. For over 40 years, the Community House was the hub of the Sunday school, Methodist Youth Fellowship, sports teams, and a wide array of social work for the church and city. It was also home to the “University of Life,” a nationally renowned college age church program.
First Methodist assisted in establishing other congregations, supported a missionary in Southern Rhodesia, and provided a centrally located auditorium for numerous religious, musical, and civic events.
By the early 1950’s it became apparent that lack of parking, accessibility, a shift in population from the central city, and overwhelming building problems necessitated the search for a new site.
After an exhaustive search and with a commitment to keep its mission in the central part of the city, a decision was made to purchase seven acres of land on Skyline Parkway at public auction in 1959. The site had dramatic visibility and met the needs of a changing society.
Pietro Bellushi, dean of the School of Architecture at MIT and a world-renowned church architect, was retained to do the conceptual drawing and a local firm the working drawings. In the fall of 1966, after the congregation had committed nearly $1.5 million, the cornerstone was laid. A tragedy that struck the FUMC family and the entire Duluth community—the loss of the Halverson brothers, Eric, Arthur, and Nathan, in Lake Superior on a stormy night in April of 1967—brought support from across the community and the gift of the remarkable Three Brothers Chapel.