Building the “New” Church

Funding the new structure was to be 2/3 from Calvary and 1/3 from the remainder of Salem Congregation. An appeal to the Salem congregation went out in November 1919 signed by Bishop Edward Rondthaler as Chairman of the Central Board of Elders and by Francis H. Fries as Chairman of the Central Board of Trustees. Teams were organized by them and began soliciting pledges from our Brothers and Sisters in the Province.Meanwhile Calvary was raising its 2/3’s portion. Partly this was done by selling “shares” in the new venture at $100.00 each, payable in installments of $2.00 per share for 50 months. The estimated cost was $186,000.00 for the whole job, and from time to time additional appeals were necessary. Thus, on January 14, 1924 the men of the Church had a dinner meeting at the Zinzendorf Hotel (then on Main at Third Street) and pledged $17,062.00 to the completion of the sanctuary.

The plans were drawn by Willard C. Northrup, a local architect, and called for walls of Statesville brick, trimmed with limestone. Space for elevators was originally planned between the ground level and the two floors above but this amenity was abandoned because of the high cost. Seating capacity was to be 1,000, the roof was to be covered by slate. Steam heat was provided by coal furnaces in the basement, and an unusual ventilating system was installed: Large fans were placed in the basement, and immense metal pans placed before them, so that on particularly hot days blocks of ice could be put in the pans, air blown over them, and the cooled air blown up through ducts and through the two large grills on either side of the pulpit area, into the sanctuary. (This primitive air conditioning system apparently fell into disuse sometime later, the only record being that on June 1, 1927 “our ventilating system was used today with good effect.”)

Ground was broken for “New Calvary” on Easter Sunday 1923, and work began promptly. Within one year services were being held in the Sunday School area. This was the year two other notable churches were built in downtown: Centenary Methodist and First Baptist. Fairview Moravian (then in north Winston on Liberty Street near where Highway 52 now crosses under Liberty) was also under construction.

The architecture of New Calvary is remarkable for its immense belfry supported not by bearing walls or pillars underneath, but by an intricate truss system. The belfry is so harmoniously proportioned to the remainder of the building that its size and weight are not apparent. Some indication can be gathered from the fact that the clockface alone is more than five feet across.

By August 3, 1924 it was time for old Calvary to be razed. The last service was announced by the old bell, a Lovefeast was held, the band playing a chorale prelude and, later, “Largo” from Dvorak’s New World Symphony. Bishop Rondthaler and Dr. Schwarze shared the pulpit at this last service in the old sanctuary Bishop Rondthaler himself had inspired and, within his own lifetime, seen outgrown. The Church was packed. On August 24, 1924 the congregation began worshipping in the lower floor of the new Church building, while construction continued overhead. Sunday School had begun in the new Church one week earlier.

The cornerstone for the new sanctuary (on the northeast corner of the front facade) was the same stone laid 35 years before to serve “Old Calvary,” with the date of the new structure simply cut into its face. When the stone was transferred to the new Church, it was opened and the old contents, together with newer articles, were deposited in two copper boxes and sealed within the stone. The same ode was used for the laying of the new cornerstone as had been used in 1889, symbolizing that “New Calvary” was a not a beginning but a continuation.

Before we leave the subject of “building the New Calvary,” some of its other features should be noted. First are the bells. Only we and St. Paul’s in downtown have—and use—our church bells. 1 The larger bell is rung manually by a rope in the attic, was cast in 1892 by the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Maryland and is a whopping 41 inches diameter measured across the mouth. The smaller is attached to the clock and was cast in 1890 by E.A. Williams & Sons Foundry. It measures 23¼ inches diameter across the mouth. (Some day we should install another bell, so that we can have a genuine “peal.”)

Our stained glass windows were executed by Payne Studios of Patterson, N.J. over a period of more than 20 years. The last was commissioned in 1942 at a cost of $600.00, shortly after Payne advised us that the “garment glass” which would match the earlier windows was rapidly being depleted. More recently, the beautiful stained glass windows on the front were designed and executed by Russell F. Biggam, one of our own members, and contributed to Calvary about 1959.

The Calvary organ is one of the great ones in our community—demanding an exceptional organist to bring out its full potential. The contract was signed for its purchase on November 27, 1924 at the Thanksgiving service when it was announced that $8,034.93 had been raised toward the price. The instrument is a two manual organ by Hook & Hastings of Boston. It has a special electro-pneumatic action, 20 speaking stops plus a large number of necessary stops, 17 ranks and a detached console. Originally the organ was located on the right side of the choir loft. Later when the Reverend Charles B. Adams was simultaneously Choir Director and Organist, the console was moved to the center of the choir loft so he could be seen more easily by the choir. The console was recessed into a depressed “pit,” so that the organist and the direction of the choir would not be a distraction from the service itself—a nicety now unfortunately ignored.

The Church structure was formally opened on Easter Sunday, April 4, 1926 at a cost of $186,000.00, inclusive of building, carpeting and stained glass (the basic beige Tiffany stained glass was later replaced by the memorial stained glass windows executed by Payne Studios as indicated above), organ and furniture.

As it worked out, Winston-Salem’s Old City Hall (located where the Reynolds Building is today) was being razed. Louis Owen, a member of Home Church and the Traffic Manager of Reynolds Tobacco Company bought the clock and gave it to Calvary. All we had to do was install it. But that proved a question: No one knew whether it could be fit into the belfry or whether we would have to install a single face on the gable end of the church (as was done at Home Church).

The Old Town Clock was an object of sentiment in Winston-Salem: The newspaper noted it had tolled for the funerals of prominent citizens, had rung “riot call” to rally the home guard when disturbances threatened, and had served as the Town fire alarm for years (a practice discontinued only when automobilists, who could also hear the bell, began the dangerous practice of chasing the fire engines to the fire). When it was announced that the Town clock would become a part of Calvary, the newspaper rejoiced that “when Third Street is extended as planned,” the Church would be on an important corner and “practically in the heart of the City.” The newspaper continued to extol the elevated location of Calvary Church and was delighted the sound of its bell would continue to be heard in the heart of Winston-Salem.

When in the Town Hall the Clock had been wound Friday of each week by W.T. Vogler Jewelry Company. Handwinding by a system of pulleys continued until around 1972 when the clock was electrified. It hasn’t been as dependable since. The Seth Thomas Clock Company had built the clock itself as number 739 in the series. The works are dated February 1, 1893. The works also bear the name A.J. Hotchkiss, whose role in the construction of the clock is unknown. The Seth Thomas Clock Company was contacted to supervise the installation of the clock and, happily, was able to fit it into the belfry, where from a height of 74¼ feet, it could be heard and seen a substantial distance. It was no small job: The clock face alone measures sixty three inches diameter. 2

It remained to complete paying for the new structure. According to sound Moravian practice, it could not be dedicated until it was totally paid for. It was during the Great Depression that Brother C.E. Ashburn, Church Treasurer, visited Dr. Schwarze during the night of November 25, 1930 to inform him that the promissory note executed for the $187,000.00 construction cost would be paid the next day. Just two months later, on January 25, 1931, “New Calvary” was dedicated by Bishop Rondthaler himself. His sermon was entitled “Together” and the text was Ephesians 2:4-7.

It was Bishop Rondthaler’s last official act.

The Bishop passed away on January 31, 1931 at the age of 88 years, 6 months and 7 days. 3 Calvary Church had been his spiritual child in a special way: It was “the result of the first effort of the mother congregation to extend her usefulness to the new town of Winston” as he wrote in the 1921 memorabilia. He himself had occupied her pulpit at the very first. We were bound to each other historically and emotionally.

  1. (and we should do it more often: There is nothing like the sound of a church bell on Sunday to reproach slug-a-beds nor is there a better way to remind those within ear shot of their higher calling.)
  2. The move and installation only cost $300.00 and the clocks themselves were a gift. Ironically, some members of the congregation were so upset by the $300.00 cost that they left the Church!
  3. He had been the 184th Bishop of the Unitas Fratrum in unbroken line from its foundation in 1467, and his and his family’s life was inextricably intertwined with the Church he so loved. His grandfather had been a missionary to Sarepta, Russia and his son Howard followed him as a Bishop of the Unity.

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