In 1850, Reverend William Simpson was directed by the Iowa Conference to establish a Methodist mission in the Kanesville area on the western edge of the new state of Iowa. He and a Congregational minister joined together to find quarters for both congregations. A log building near the present site of Broadway United Methodist Church served two new churches. The Reverend Simpson’s church began with five members.
Three years later in 1853 when Kanesville became Council Bluffs, the growing church built a frame church building on West Pierce. This structure later served as the first public school in the community. By 1854 the Methodist Episcopal Church had 15 members. By 1865 the membership had grown to 149 and more space was needed.
A new church building, located at the corner of Madison Street (First Street) and Broadway, rose on land given to the Methodist church by Henry DeLong, a one-time gambler at the Ocean Wave Saloon. After serving in the Civil War and earning money by washing his fellow soldiers’ clothes and after experiencing a spiritual awakening, Henry DeLong bought the land on which the saloon once stood. His request was that the land always be the home of the church. During his long life as a church member and a circuit preacher, he served the community by establishing two missions to serve the children of the city.
The new structure was completed by the end of 1866. The Ladies Aid Society helped to finance the building by preparing a “grand supper and festival” for the community. The new church was named the Council Bluffs Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church but was more commonly known as the First Methodist Church. Membership at the end of 1886 was three hundred. By 1890 plans were underway to build a new church on Henry DeLong’s grant of land.
The new church building was dedicated in 1892 after a year’s delay because of rebuilding the foundation. With heavy indebtedness at the time of an economic unrest in the country, the church struggled for twenty years financially, but finally on January 1, 1913, the mortgage was burned. Membership had grown from 550 to 700 over this time. A long-awaited educational building (named the Wesley Wing in 2008) was completed in 1958 and dedicated in 1965. The wooden towers were removed because of deterioration and the aluminum spire was installed in 1965.
BROADWAY’S STAINED GLASS HERITAGE
Broadway has become a popular stop for those who tour Council Bluffs’ stained glass art. Stained glass windows are a part of our rich heritage. Research has discovered that the designer or the windows on the north and south walls of the Sanctuary was Tiffany-trained artist, W. A Hazel, of Brown & Haywood Co, of Minneapolis, MN.
In 2002, these windows that were covered during the construction of the Wesley Wing were revealed, repaired and back-lit. The windows on the north side were removed during the 1967 renovation of the sanctuary. Three women in the congregation designed and crafted windows to be placed in two of the openings using pieces of stained glass removed from within the walls. Stained glass windows have been designed, crafted and installed in the chapel and the DeLong Lounge. A lovely window, “You are the Vine,” surrounds the front entrance to the Wesley Wing by a church member.
The round window above the balcony was installed in 1950. The framework consists of ten handcarved pieces of Bedford stone weighing 600 pounds each. The window, predominately blue glass, features a Jerusalem or crusader’s cross. This window replaced the original window blown out by a storm in the early 1900s.
A memorial window, featuring John Wesley, a replica of Broadway’s 1866 church, and several religious symbols, and a rainbow window are located in the narthex. A “Calvary Window” is located in the south tower. Windows in soft pastel colors installed in 1892 grace both towers.