Let it shine! 50 years on the Skyline

Our Skyline Adventure–a 26-minute video from 1966

Photo Gallery  Dozens and dozens of pictures! Who do you know?

Tell me a story!

• Our Skyline Adventure
Stories about the old church and building the new

• Within These  Walls
History; what we’ve done since 1966

• Nuts and Bolts
Facts and figures about the building

The Sanctuary

The nave or sanctuary originally had space for 750 worshippers. The pews are oak with metal legs and are of open construction with pew cushions. In recent years several front pews on both sides have been removed to provide more space for the increased number of musical ensembles. The sanctuary choir, five bell choirs, a contemporary worship ensemble, and various other instrumental ensembles regularly use the spaces on either or both sides of the altar area to lead worship and provide inspirational music. A restored 1912 Steinway grand piano regularly adds to the worship experience and is available for special concerts. The balcony also serves as both a seating and musical ensemble area.

Tower Room in the old church

A room very few people even knew about was what my father, Dr. Winfield S. Haycock, called the Tower Room.  This was a tower located opposite the bell tower on the west front of the church building.  We would say this was my father’s Easter Sunday hideout.

This room was probably only used on Easter Sunday, when my father would go there between Easter services.  This was a high stress Sunday for him, and he desired a quiet place just to rest between the services which in those days would attract 1,500 or more people.

My mother, Harriett Haycock, would have coffee and a snack for him to eat between the services.  Instead of greeting people leaving the first service, father would go immediately to the Tower room for his rest.

As far as I know, this was the only Sunday he did not greet people departing church, instead leaving the task for associate ministers.

Oh, I confess that once in awhile this rebel of a minister’s kid would hide out in the Tower room to avoid some some church-related request by an adult church member!

Eliot L. Haycock

The Designer

Architect Pietro Belluschi (1899–1964), was born in Ancona, Italy, served in the Italian Army in WWI, and earned a degree in civil engineering at the University of Rome in 1922. He moved to the United States in 1923, earned a second degree in civil engineering at Cornell University in 1924, and became a US citizen in 1929. Before joining the architectural firm of A. E. Doyle in Portland, Oregon, Mr. Belluschi worked for a short time as a mining engineer. He advanced rapidly in the Doyle firm, soon becoming chief designer, a full partner in 1933, and by 1943 he had assumed full control of the firm by buying out the other partners. In 1951, Belluschi became Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, holding this position until 1965. He was appointed a member of the National Convention of Fine Arts by President Truman and later served as an advisor to the State Department on the design of foreign buildings. He was a consultant to the Secretary of the Air Force on the new Air Force Academy being built in Colorado Springs.

Mr. Belluschi was a member of the Board of Consultants for the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City and was principal architect for the Juilliard School of Music building. During his long career as an architect and designer he received many awards and distinctions for his design of religious buildings and churches, commercial buildings, and residential structures. In total Mr. Belluschi designed 59 structures, of which 23 were places of worship or religious structures, including First United Methodist Church of Duluth, Minnesota.

Space Available

Besides our own numerous church groups that use the church facilities, the building also provides meeting space for community and religious groups on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis. At last count over 40 groups and organizations regularly use space at the Coppertop. For many of them, the space is provided at no charge, as part of our ministry to the community.

Our Organ

The Austin pipe organ has been central to our worship life for almost 50 years.  The main organ was installed in 1968 and consists of 47 ranks of pipes located in one chamber directly in back of the Sanctuary’s balcony.  An antiphonal division of 8 ranks was subsequently installed in 1982 in the chancel area.  Two identical 3 manual consoles allow the organ to be played from either the balcony or the chancel.   The organ has 2817 pipes ranging in size from 3 inches to 18.5 feet.


As part of the process of deciding what the church should do, my husband Bob Ball and Henry Ehlers staged a formal debate regarding the move to the top of the hill.  I don’t remember whether there was any immediate recording of sentiment that evening, but we did move, so I assume Bob’s argument could be seen to have prevailed.

I also remember the chore with which Millie Archerd and I were charged – to inventory everything in the church that wasn’t actually part of the building.  You wouldn’t believe the things we discovered in closets and out of the way storage areas.  It soon became evident that the church had become the “beneficiary” of all sorts of things that people simply weren’t able to dispose of.

And, of course, I remember very well the incredulousness of many when the WSCS pledged $10,000 to the Building Fund.  There was no way the women could make a goal like that!  But we did, and then added another $2,000 plus, the result of a lot of hard work on monthly luncheons topped off with an incredible variety of homemade pies.  At the ground breaking, I suggested that the foundation of the new building was filled with meatballs – one of our most popular menus – and pie crust.

—Lee Ball

The Chapel

To the right of the main entrance in the atrium is the Three Brothers Chapel, dedicated to three teenage boys and a Coastguardsman who lost their lives on the north pier of the Duluth Harbor entrance during a strong Northeaster on Lake Superior in April of 1967. The chapel can seat up to 100 people and features a lantern skylight over the altar area, an embossed copper wall behind the altar, and indirect side lighting. A Steinway baby grand piano and a mechanical action pipe organ, built by Duluth organ builder Dan Jaeckel in 1995, provide music for chapel services and special events.

Didja ever wonder…

..why it is that the old church downtown was First Methodist, but now we are First United Methodist Church?

On April 23, 1968, a year and a half after our congregation moved to the Skyline, The United Methodist Church was created from the union of the Evangelical United Brethren and the Methodist Church. The two churches shared roots in Wesleyanism and had long worked together: for example, Philip William Otterbein, the principal founder of the United Brethren in Christ, assisted in the ordination of Francis Asbury to the superintendency of American Methodist work.

Chester Park United Methodist was an EUB church.

‘I will build you a cathedral!

My husband, Bob Bean, was a trustee at the time FUMC members began considering moving from Third and Third in downtown Duluth – possibly up to the top of the hill.  They were very concerned that we must continue to be in the Central Hillside service area.  A beautiful over-look site became available.  The architects, Melander, Fugelso Inc., realized the importance of such a beautiful site.  They were able to convince Pietro Bellucshi of M.I.T. in Boston to be prime design architect.  He had come rather reluctantly, I am told.  It is a long way to Duluth.

However, he was stunned by the site and the view.  “I will build you a cathedral!” he exclaimed.  That didn’t really go over too well for our more conservative Methodist leaders.  It seems they had something more simple in mind.

My husband Bob was the engineer who worked with the architects who had conscripted Pietro to come up with the beautiful structure that we have today.  A beautiful piece of architectural design, it was and still is a greatly significant site on the skyline.  Truly, some folks have referred to it as a fortress, as in “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”  Most folks today simply refer to it as “The Coppertop.”

Our children, throughout the length of time of the building and adjusting asked, “Is Dad the head janitor?” – He was down there so often in the furnace and boiler room making adjustments… night and day.  I just reminded them that “your Dad is the mechanical engineer.”  Frankly, I think he just couldn’t stay away from the place.

Side bar:  Bob was a trustee when the church was built; twenty-five years later I was chair of the trustees when we burnt the mortgage.

—Diane Bean

First Meth Memories

We were first introduced to First Methodist Church in 1957 when Dick was appointed the director of the Community House attached to the church on 3rd Avenue West and 3rd Street. In that same year we joined the Church and became active members—Win Haycock was pastor. The following one-liners identify some of our memories of our “old” and “new” churches:

  • Peg recalls that her high school baccalaureate service was held at Duluth’s First Methodist Church.
  • Three of our children were baptized in the old church.
  • Peg joined a Circle in 1961—her first meeting was a triangle of Lee Ball, Esy Ledyard and Peg.
  • In Sunday School Peg taught first grade for a while and Dick team-taught 5th and 6th grades with Bob Ball for a decade plus.
  • Peg was very involved with meat ball lunches for helping to finance the new church—her only traffic ticket came when delivering pies to church.
  • Beautiful sanctuary on 3rd Avenue—loved looking down from the balcony—but had to think of a new church due to lack of parking space.
  • Peg remembers vividly the first Bazaar in the new church—crowded—particularly remembers Elizabeth Congdon in her wheelchair buying one of the nut trees Peg made; moved Bazaar to Sunday School rooms the following year.
  • Dick served on and chaired a number of committees in the new First United Methodist Church—Education, Staff Parish, Administrative Counsel, and Elevator Installation to name a few.
  • Peg has been very involved over the years with UMW, the Bazaar, Cookie Walks and she worked in the kitchen for 25 years with Louise Mason and Nath Beck.
  • We participated in pledging for the Skyline Church, and will always remember the leadership and dedication of members Warren Moore, Dick Bye, Elizabeth Congdon, Ray Darland, Dick and Dea Anthony, Gene and Betty Halverson, John and Audrey Comstock, Bob and Lee Ball, Clarence and Dorothy Ottinger, Bob and Diane Bean to name a few who led the way for the new church—and the planning by pastor Jerry Walker.
  • Over the past sixty years we have worked with and been enriched by a number of Methodist pastors and staff—each of whom brought something unique to our church and to our lives; our family was especially blessed with the ministry of Tom and Velma Walker.
  • Individually we have been blessed and as a family we have been blessed with our close association to First United Methodist Church.

—Dick and Peg Wallin

Youth Christmas at Glensheen

The Sunday night youth group in the ’50’s at the old church was called the University of Life. Every Christmas season, a chartered Duluth Superior Transit Co bus would take youth group kids Christmas caroling at the homes of shut-ins.  Afterwards, the bus would take us to the residence (these days referred to as Glensheen) of Elisabeth Congdon, for a Christmas Party for the youth group.

What a royal treat! This was  held in the basement–er, no, the lower level of the mansion. Of course, there was a big Christmas tree, a crackling fire in the fireplace, and a huge spread of wonderful treats direct from Elisabeth’s kitchen put out on the pool table. Miss Congdon would make an appearance to wish all of us good church kids a Merry Christmas but pretty much allowed us to have the place to ourselves, all of us on our best behavior.  At a rather late hour we were bused home.

I remain grateful for such memories. These days, on occasion, I tour Glensheen. Tour guides listen with envy as I relate the story about the youth group Christmas parties and, also, Sunday dinner with the Congdons at Glensheen. Oh, this kid knew enough to be on  best behavior at Sunday dinner or be grounded for life!

Thank you, Elisabeth Congdon!

—Eliot L. Haycock

FUMC History with CHUM

Churches United in Ministry i.e. Central Hillside United Ministries, today CHUM, was formed in 1973.  Our congregation, First United Methodist Church, was one of the original ten sponsors.  Our beginning outreach efforts included a children’s summer center, CHUM church, and Telecare Friends.  The geographical service area at that time was from 14th Avenue W to 15th Avenue E, and from Skyline Parkway down to the waterfront.

With strong leadership from multiple members in our church, led by Clara Knudsen and her husband, Sid, whose continued service convinced us all that the project was worth supporting; I was on the CHUM Board, and also Chair, in the early to mid-80s.  At that time our budget had reached about $100,000 (which I must admit, made me a bit nervous).  Today, as CHUM has grown, reached out more, developed greater partnerships, it is nearer one million dollars!  I wonder how we did it?

I am still a delegate, our outreach has continued into an amazing service program to all of Duluth, recognizing the problems of feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and developing strong advocacy programs.  We are an ecumenical group of some 40 churches and organizations who believe in the importance of these many services.

I pray that FUMC will always be a part of this much needed organization.

—Diane Bean


On October 9, 1966 the cornerstone was laid at the new church. Some items, including a copy of the Duluth Evening Herald of Saturday, September 19, 1891, taken from the old church were included. A new history of the church, an honor roll of these who made the new church possible, Duluth newspapers, a hymnal, a tape recording by Dr. Martin Wallace, and a collection of mint conditioned coins of the day were all placed in the copper time capsule.

An engagement and a wedding

• Some of my favorite memories go back to the old church. I was an education student at UMD and we were required to do what was then called Group Leadership when we were juniors. I was assigned to work at the Community House with the Junior High Youth Group under the guidance of Millie Archerd. What an experience it was! Planning and guiding activities and life lessons for these young people with Millie guiding me was what helped form me as an educator.

But by then I had met Mike Akervik and had become a member of the CBIM group. College, Business, Industry, and Military young adults formed this group. We met early in the evening for a meal prepared by Mrs. Mason, shared our day’s stories, and had a worship service planned and presented by different members of the group at each meeting. Then there were the fun activities we all participated in as well as the mission work we did together.

On one January evening I was early for the meeting and Mike had to come from work. When he arrived, I followed him into the cloakroom while he was getting his jacket off. When I came out of the cloakroom with him, I had a sparkling, beautiful diamond on my finger and was engaged. We often laughed about where we became engaged. Barb Johnson Kim reminded me that Mike had said if we were getting married in my church, then we would be engaged in his. Dr. Haycock came to Ironwood, MI, to marry us. I am guessing not many persons had such an experience at the old FUMC and can say they were engaged in a cloakroom or in church.

There are many other favorite places from those days at the old church. Music had always been a major part of our lives and so there are many memories of singing in the choirs at both the old and new FUMC. I just feel such gratitude for all that FUMC and its members have meant in my life.

—Jan Akervik

• The church opened on Nov. 13, 1966. On Nov. 19, 1966, my wife Naomi and I were the first to be married there. The ceremony was performed by my father, Dr. Winfield S. Haycock, and Dr. E. Jerry Walker. So, like the church, Naomi and I are celebrating our Golden Anniversary this year.

—Eliot L. Haycock

Music and the sanctuary

The nave or sanctuary originally had space for 750 worshippers. The pews are oak with metal legs and are of open construction with pew cushions. In recent years several front pews on both sides have been removed to provide more space for the increased number of musical ensembles. The Sanctuary Choir, five bell choirs, a contemporary worship ensemble, and various other instrumental ensembles regularly use the spaces on either or both sides of the altar area to lead worship and provide inspirational music. A restored 1912 Steinway grand piano regularly adds to the worship experience and is available for special concerts. The balcony also serves as both a seating and musical ensemble area.


On October 9, 1966 the cornerstone was laid at the new church. Some items, including a copy of the Duluth Evening Herald of Saturday, September 19, 1891, taken from the old church were included. A new history of the church, an honor roll of these who made the new church possible, Duluth newspapers, a hymnal, a tape recording by Dr. Martin Wallace, and a collection of mint conditioned coins of the day were all placed in the copper time capsule.

Won’t you come in?

The main floor has an outside granite entrance stairway flanked by ramps.  The entrance doors are of anodized bronze aluminum with a close vertical grill pattern on each side of the main doors and on the handicap door.  The atrium has granite floors and walls with twelve pyramidal skylights.  The narthex has terrazzo floors with granite and oak wood vertical grilled walls and two large open granite stairways leading to the lower level.

Tower bells

One of my favorite places in the old church was the bell tower. I would go there on occasion and watch Otto Hessert playing hymns on the bells by pressing huge handles. Mr. Hessert played all the numerous bells by hand in that way. Sounding throughout the downtown area, they provided great competition to the Central High School bells. It must have taken a good deal of strength to press the handles, which he did standing up. I am sad the bells could not be used in the new church.

—Eliot Haycock, son of Pastor Win Haycock

The Tower Chimes were donated by George and Thomas Martin in memory of their mother, Sarah Jane Martin, and dedicated on October 16, 1921. The $10,000 memorial stipulated they were not to be tolled for funerals. Mr. Otto Hessert played the chimes for 25 years every Saturday evening, twice on Sunday morning, and on all legal holidays. He prided himself on hitting the first note on the exact minute and consulted his watch to be certain.

At the time of the move to the new church, consideration was given to moving the bells there. Many problems prevented this: there would be no bell tower in the church, the cost of renewal and reconditioning was $15,000,    and six more bells were needed to make the ten-bell chime adequate. The bells were sold for $12,000 to an out-of-town church. The money was put into the memorial fund so the original memorial would not be lost.

Granite and marble

The first sight visiting ships to the Duluth Harbor see is First United Methodist Church.  It rises 150 feet from grade facing Lake Superior and 124 feet to the tip of the cross from the front main floor elevation.  The poured concrete shell of the sanctuary is 40 feet high and from the floor of the nave to the peak, the rise is 88 feet.

The exterior is of Texas pink granite, fabricated in Cold Spring, Minnesota.  Altar and sanctuary floors are of Italian Travertine marble.

Buying the site on the down-low

My name is Eliot Haycock, son of Dr. Winfield S. Haycock, Senior Minister at First United Methodist Church, Duluth from 1949 – 1961.  It is almost understatement to say that my Father played a critical role along with other church members in relocating the church to the present location

Even in mid or later ’50’s I can recall my Dad at home talking about the need to move the church to a new location.  The location at 3rd Avenue West and Third Street was a declining neighborhood.  Parking for church events was poor even to the extent that a charter bus was operated from Superior St up the hill so members could park elsewhere and bus to the church on Sundays.

Many sites were looked at and I am sure discussed in private meetings. Finally, Dr. Martin O. Wallace, who was President of the Duluth City Council and also of the church Board of Trustees, became aware that the present site was becoming available.  Perfect, my Father and others concluded.  Right at the very center of the city with streets coming from all directions, plenty for room for parking, and a million dollar view.

However, the land had to be bid on at City Hall so it was necessary to keep our interest in the land very quiet so there would be few other bidders.  So without even having a congregational charge conference to get permission to bid and make the purchase, my Father, along with I believe Warren Moore and Gene Halvorson, walked to City Hall to bid on the land.  It was decided during that walk that the bid would be $25,000.  And WOW!!  There were no other bidders! Therefore the bid of $25,000 was bid and  the land became property of the First United Methodist Church.  A day or two later, my Father walked this very excited kid across the land and said, I remember distinctly, “Eliot, this is where the new church will be.”

So it was then decided that perhaps there ought to be a charge conference to tell the congregation they owned the land where the new church would be.  By unanimous vote, the congregation accepted the actions of a very few people who had kept a huge transaction for the church very quiet.  Oh perhaps, I recall, there were a few voices that said that charge conferences are supposed to be held BEFORE transactions of this sort are completed, not after!!  But I am sure this did not bother my Father as he knew he and a few other church leaders had done what they had to do and now the dream of a new church could go forward.

A month later, Standard Oil (as it was called then)  offered $75,000 for the property.  NO SALE!!  I wonder what that property would be worth today if it would still be vacant.

My Father knowing the land for the new church was secure, left to become Senior Minister at Christ United Methodist Church in Rochester, MN desiring to leave the actual construction of the new building to others.

Accurate to the best of my ability after 50 years.

—Eliot L. Haycock

Sanctuary materials

The walls of the sanctuary are of plaster and vertical oak battens, added to soften the feel of the many hard surfaces. Each side of the pyramidal interior ceiling consists of a triangular grid of steel beams covered with wood decking.  At the base are triangular-shaped windows.  In the corners the vertical panels are of variegated colored glass.

So many meatballs

When the fundraising began for the new church building in 1961 or 2, I remember the day that my mother, Audrey Comstock, came home from conducting a Women’s Society meeting just grey with worry.
“That Dottie Congdon! She just doesn’t know anything about raising money! She and Elizabeth (Congdon) had us pledge $10,000 to the building fund! We can’t possibly raise that kind of money,” she sputtered.

However, the women embarked on a series of lunches once a month on a weekday to feed those who worked downtown. At that time, there were very few places to eat downtown, so the lunches became very popular.   The women served a variety of things, but the meatball dinners were the most popular. Each dinner included homemade pie for dessert, each pie the specialty of the woman who made it.

In the end, they made the original $10,000 pledge plus $2000 more. Mother was vastly relieved.

—Dorothy Anway

One River, Two Streams

An important moment in the life of First UMC came in 2012, when First Church merged with Chester Park UMC. Chester Park had been the only Evangelical United Brethren church north of the Twin Cities when the global Methodist Episcopal Church and the EUB merged  in 1967 to become the United Methodist Church. The two churches both continued as individual UMCs for many years, but eventually numbers dropped for both congregations with changes in population in Duluth and nationwide. Chester Park began to seek a merger with another United Methodist Church, and First Church emerged as their choice. Both congregations voted in favor of the merger in 2012, and the new First United Methodist Church was born.

It’s going to be HOW much? 1963

A fund-raising firm under Mr. & Mrs. Fred Shearer of Evanston, Illinois was engaged to conduct the drive for pledges toward the building fund. As the money came in, it was invested at 4% interest. By April 1963, there were pledges totaling $560,000.

And the plans for the new church went ahead. Bids were opened on April 28, 1964 in the lecture room. After meeting with the architect, the Building Committee realized they had to begin economizing in order to have costs approach the possible income. They voted to have a two-year extension of the pledges.

The Copper Top

The pyramidal roof is made of copper with standing seams in the shape of elongated diamonds to give the appearance of fish scales. The copper was first coated with linseed oil and turpentine to prevent it from turning green. With natural aging and additional treatments it has turned to the dark color it reflects today.

More to Come

The Skyline Adventure didn’t end on November 13, 1966 when the congregation moved in and dedicated the new church. Among the things still to come were the chapel, organ, floor tile, carpeting, and blacktopped parking lots.

Three Brothers

On Sunday, April 30, 1967, a tragic event happened. Three brothers, all very active in First Church, were drowned off the pier at the Duluth Ship Canal. In memory of the Halverson brothers, the chapel was named “Three Brothers’ Chapel.” The young people of the church set to work to complete the chapel in memory of the friends. When completed it was, “Dedicated to the memory of Eric, Arthur, and Nathan Halverson, teenagers of this congregation, who were swept from the north pier of the Duluth harbor entrance during a strong northeastern on Sunday evening, April 30, 1967, and to the memory of Edgar Gulbertson (of the U.S. Coast Guard) who lost his life the same night while, with two shipmates. making a courageous but vain search for the boys at the far end of the wave-pounded pier.”

“Greater love hath no man than this”- John 15:13