Burlington, Iowa on the Mississippi
313 North 4th Street
Burlington, IA 52601
First Congregational Church
Designed by Burlington architect Charles Dunham and built in 1867, First Congregational is the oldest church included in the steeple lighting, replacing the original church built on the site in 1843. It represents medieval English Gothic style with two types of stone, both quarried locally. The very distinctive butterscotch colored stone came from a Danville quarry, and the white stone came from South Hill in Burlington. The steeple is unique to the skyline with a tall square tower and crenellated parapet that makes it look like a castle. The inside of this church was devastated by a fire in 1899, and the interior was remodeled at that time. This church had a French clay tile roof with glass tile that formed skylights to light the interior clerestory windows, also added in 1899.
The most influential pastor, Dr. William Salter, came to the Midwest in 1843 and led the First Congregational Church from 1846 - 1910. He promoted education and helped to found Grinnell College, was a trustee for Iowa State University, served on the United States Naval Academy Board of Visitors, and participated in founding the Chicago Theological Seminary. Before the Civil War, he was an active abolitionist and was part of the Underground Railroad. After the war, he continued his humanitarian and academic efforts.
The cornerstone of this church, dated July 4, 1867, contains articles that illustrate not only the religious faith but also the patriotism and humanitarian roots of Dr. Salter’s congregation shortly after the Civil War. Religious items include the Holy Bible, The Church Hymn Book, The Manual of the Church listing officers and members, and Burial Hill Declaration of Faith. Also included in the cornerstone were copies of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, Washington’s Farewell Address, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the Constitution of Iowa.
This building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 not only for the architecture but also for the significant contributions made by Dr. William Salter. Its castle-like tower is one of six steeples that can be best viewed from the intersection of 4th Street and Washington. The steeple is 120 feet tall and is visible from multiple viewpoints.