History of FCC Elgin

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Our History

Church records show that First Congregational Church got its start in the log cabin of its founder, James T. Gifford.  It’s a landmark that existed only three blocks from the current church structure. The church’s present building – its third- was constructed at the corners of Chicago and Center Streets in 1889 at a cost of $35,000. Constructed with red pressed brick and brownstone trim, the interior was laid out as a “church in the round,” or the “Akron” style popular at the time. The sanctuary included an organ with over 250 pipes – an instrument that still ranks as one of the largest in the Fox Valley.  The large seating capacity of First Congregational Church soon made it a community auditorium on par with the current Hemmens Cultural Center.

Jane Addams, Booker T. Washington, and John Dewey were among the notables who spoke in the building. The sanctuary also served as the sight of high school graduations and other community functions. Post World War II growth led to the demolition of the eastern portion of the building and the construction of an education wing in its place.  The new facility also included a chapel, a new office, and fellowship hall.

Following a million dollar fund raising effort during 2008-2009, the exterior of the education wing was redone to match the architecture of the existing original church. New washrooms were added and classroom configurations changed. But more than bricks and mortar mark the vibrancy of this congregation. It has been active in the city’s food pantry, Soup Kettle, Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS), and was instrumental in securing a new building for the Community Crisis Center.

While some of its neighboring congregations have relocated outside the downtown area, First Congregational sees its mission fulfilled by remaining in its historic building and neighborhood.

N. Clark History of FCC. Rev. Nathaniel Clark. Angel Loft & Pipe Organ Tour: A Rite of Passage at FCC

The home of James T. Gifford at Prairie and Villa streets as it was described by his widow and other pioneers. First Congregational Church was organized in this cabin and used it as a meeting place for its first three years.
First Congregational Church constructed this building at the northwest corner of Fulton and Villa streets in Elgin in 1843 and remained there until relocating to its current location at Center and Chicago streets in 1889. The site, which was later occupied by the Bethlehem Lutheran Church, was razed in the 1950s for one of the city’s first municipal parking lots.
This circa 1930 photo of First Congregational Church looks similar to the church today, with the exception of a wing on the right side which was removed following World War II and replaced with a newer addition.

Looking to host a historic event or book a tour?

Call the church at 847-741-4045 or fill out our contact form today.

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First Congregational

United Church of Christ - Elgin, IL


Embraces diversity, social justice, and progressive theology. Open and affirming, promoting love, acceptance, and inclusion.

About Us

Want to know more about our Church that started in Elgin founder, James Gifford's cabin? Meet our Church staff and learn more about the structure of First Congregational Church and the United Church of Christ.

Upcoming Events

Our Sunday services, special musical events, Ministry groups and community outreach offer ways to connect with our congregation regularly. Join us!

How We Give

We believe we are called to touch lives not only in our immediate, local community, but also in the larger world in need.

Welcome From Pastor Jesse

Welcome to First Congregational Church of Elgin! I’m so glad you found our website!

One of the important affirmations in the United Church of Christ is, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”
Are you craving an authentic connection to God? Are you looking for a progressive message about faith and spirituality?
Are you ready for a sense of belonging and involvement? Are you seeking to find meaning in your unanswered questions?

Then FCC Elgin is the place for you!

We’re a spiritual community with a long, rich, diverse heritage here in Elgin for 184+ years. We’re a church that is proudly progressive, intentionally inclusive, and authentically Christian. We honor many paths to God, encourage questions, seek social justice, care for the planet, and welcome LGBTQ individuals and families.

There are many ways to learn more about us and get involved, so please explore our website and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.

Peace to you in Jesus Christ,

Pastor Jesse Tanner