When Hyde Park was first settled, there were so few inhabitants that people of all denominations worshipped together in the same church. Mr. Paul Cornell, the "Father of Hyde Park", donated the lot on which the church was built in 1858. Our elderly friend describes the building:
The old church stood in a grove of oak trees at the corner of Oak Street (53rd) and Hyde Park (Lake) Avenue. It was a quaint little building with a V-shaped roof. The double doors opened upon a center aisle flanked on either side by hard wooden benches.... The churchyard was enclosed with a picket fence, and from the gate a two-plank walk led to the front door.
There were no stained glass windows, nor a fancy pulpit. But there was music. Sitting in a small pew, midway in the church, a musician played a melodeon-an early version of the organ-and the choirmaster sat next to him. A wood stove kept the church warm but could also fill the room with smoke when the wind blew the wrong way.
As the population grew, there were too
many people to fit in the church. Thus, they divided according
to denomination. The Presbyterians worshipped in the morning
and the Episcopalians in the afternoon. Our friend paused and
giggled as she recalled one cold winter afternoon when the Episcopalians
arrived only to find that the Presbyterians had burned all of
the wood, leaving none for their service. A mock trial was held
in which a Presbyterian prisoner was brought in dragging a great
log to which he was chained. I wonder who was the mock prisoner!
Did you know that houses and buildings can be moved? In fact, this first church of Hyde Park was moved twice! And each time, it had a very interesting occupation.
In its second location, the church became the Town Hall with a very sturdy basement built beneath it for holding prisoners. That's right! A church became a jail! Our friend's grade school was just across the street from the jail and she used to peer in the windows with her school chums to see who was locked up!
In its third move, our little building was moved next to the train tracks in 1892 where it became a hotel for the World's Fair. Where is it now? I was anxious to see this church-jail-hotel. But, she broke the 'news' to me gently, that it burned down long before I was born.