Burlington, Iowa on the Mississippi
First United Methodist Church
421 Washington Street
Burlington, IA 52601
Built in 1889, this church is built of red granite (jasper) from the Sioux Falls South Dakota Granite Quarry Company. Tragically, an arson fire in 2007 completely destroyed everything except the exterior walls. The congregation considered rebuilding the church on the outskirts of town, but the downtown location won by a narrow margin of five votes. The church reopened in its original location on August 25, 2013. Originally, its tallest steeple was 150 feet tall, but the removal of ornamentation has lowered this height.
The history of this church’s congregation has been intertwined with the history of Burlington since before Iowa was even a state. Old Zion, built in 1838, served not only as a place of worship but also a place for governing. Some of the additional functions of the building included the meeting place for legislature of the Iowa territory, the Supreme Court of Iowa, and the District Court of Des Moines County. The bell at Old Zion not only called people to worship, but also was used to alert the community of a fire.This 1,400 pound bell now is at First United Methodist Church. In 1881, it was determined that the Old Zion’s congregation needed a larger building. The First Methodist Episcopal Church (now the First United Methodist) can trace their lineage to Old Zion’s congregation’s efforts.
A commemorative plaque for Old Zion can be seen at 300 Washington Street. The entire north side of the First United Methodist Church is lighted and can be best viewed from the intersection of 4th Street and Washington. The steeple also is visible from the North Hill bluff.