The Great Buildings: Kulp Memorial Church

The following article is the second in a series featuring the landmark structures of the Greater Shamokin Area. For more, see The Great Buildings category.

On a bright, clear winter’s day in 1912, a building contractor left his card in the cornerstone of a new unfinished church. Just ten days before, the cornerstone had been laid with pomp and circumstance, a speech from the bishop, and a ceremony held in the schoolhouse across the street to shelter attendees from the cold weather. A box was prepared containing three coins, a small bible and prayer book, and a collection of newspapers. Finally on December 10, all were sealed in the cornerstone together with the builder’s business card, where they would remain for the next century.

This same church can still be found today along Chestnut Street in Kulpmont — a small, modest structure of gray stone and stucco to match. It’s easy to miss on the fast-paced Route 61 that follows the town’s main street, but if one does stop for a glance, it appears there is not much to see. It is not a particularly imposing edifice. It has been called a chapel, though it did once serve a large and active congregation. Even when it was first built, its otherwise plain facade was adorned only by a large stained glass window and a simple cross at the gable’s peak. But what it lacks in ornamentation, it has more than made up for in history.

The Kulp Memorial Church of today, and as it appeared around forty or fifty years ago. Historical image from the Thomas Photography collection, courtesy of Larry Deklinski.

Completed in 1913, this Protestant Episcopal church was the first of its kind in the town, and would continue to serve an active parish for several decades. It was a church to many, but it was more than that — even today, with the structure long since deconsecrated, it still stands as a monument to the memory of one man. It is a widow’s tribute to her husband, for whom the church was named the Monroe H. Kulp Memorial Episcopal Church of the Ascension.

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The Great Buildings: Trinity Episcopal Church

As curator of the Greater Shamokin Heritage Museum, I am excited to announce a new series of articles focusing on the historic architecture of Shamokin and its environs. The Great Buildings series will focus primarily on extant examples, giving you the reader a chance to accompany me virtually as I explore these unique buildings and, of course, learn something of their history along the way.

Introducing the Great Buildings of Shamokin is Trinity Episcopal Church, the landmark Lincoln Street Tudor Revival. Some of you may recall the church having been recently in danger of demolition after the Episcopal congregation relocated to Mount Carmel. It has recently been revealed that the church building has been purchased by a private party and thankfully is saved from demolition. For more information, see this article in the Daily Item. The new owners plan to convert the chapel space into a coffee shop.

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The McConnell Building

Last week I had the privilege of touring a landmark Shamokin structure–the McConnell Building, corner of Sunbury and Rock Streets. Its red-brick facade has been a distinctive feature of downtown Shamokin for more than a hundred and twenty years, but most locals have probably never been afforded the opportunity of a close look at its architecture and history.

The McConnell Building was named for William C. McConnell (1860-1949), a prominent local businessman and later state senator. Originally hailing from a small town near Harrisburg, McConnell removed to Shamokin and aligned early in the 1880s with the Kulps and McWilliamses, pioneer merchants of lumber, brick and ice.

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