First United Methodist Church of Orlando has been a spiritual presence in the heart of The City Beautiful for more than 130 years. As the city has grown, so has First United Methodist Church in its commitment to spread the Word of Christ throughout Orlando and beyond.
First United Methodist Church’s beginnings are traced to the Circuit Riders, who ministered in the 1840s throughout Central Florida. In 1874, Methodists joined with two other denominations to hold regular church services in the old red-brick country courthouse in the center of town.
In 1882, Methodists built their own small church on the west corner of Magnolia Avenue and Jackson Street. In 1888, the building was expanded to 50 feet by 90 feet to accommodate the increasing membership.
With the congregation continuing to grow, the church constructed the “yellow brick church” in 1913 for a total cost of $50,000. The sanctuary was remodeled in 1942. Other buildings became necessary as the ministry of First Church expanded; in 1922 Wesley Hall was built, followed in 1949 by Asbury Hall and in 1956 by the Ledbetter Building.
The cornerstone for our current sanctuary was set in 1962. Harold E. Wagoner designed its beautiful architecture with a tower rising 163 feet above its base. The tower culminates in a gold-covered cross 12-¾ feet high by 5-½ feet wide. With its unique structure, the building is listed on the “Tours of Orlando.”
The three-story Wesley Building, built east of the sanctuary in 1971, renovated in 2007 and renamed the Ledbetter Building, housed our administrative offices, Children and Youth Ministries, Sunday school classes and Fellowship Hall. It was demolished in 2008 to begin building the current facility.
In 1986, the church purchased the property across South Street from the sanctuary. The building was renamed the Wesley Ministries and Education Building after 2007 renovations were made to house our Wesley Child Development Center, Sunday school classes, Children and Youth ministries, and church and district meetings.
In the fall of 2007, the City of Orlando and First Church began negotiations for the city’s purchase of the Wesley Ministries and Education Building. An agreement was made and the construction of today’s new facility began. In 2010 the Asbury and Ledbetter Buildings, located on the site of the original 1882 church building, were renovated for the ministry of our Wesley Child Development Center.
For more than a century, ministries of our congregation have established a reputation within the community of reaching out to others. Our church was involved in the start of the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, The Christian Service Center, The Crisis Nursery, and IDignity.
First Church has served as the “mother church” for Broadway, Holden Heights (now Ebenezer), Pine Hills, and College Park United Methodist churches.
Our new facility opened in the fall of 2012 and houses a contemporary worship sanctuary, a chapel, a parlor, the church offices and all church ministries, as well as being open to the downtown community. First United Methodist Church of Orlando continues to offer an innovative program of ministries that impact the needs of this downtown Orlando, serving the very young to the young-at-heart, and welcoming all who attend.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. - Psalm 136:1