- Primera Iglesia Metodista Unida de Ponce
Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal ChurchHistoric Methodist Church in Ponce, Puerto Rico
Location: Calle Villa 135, Ponce, Puerto Rico Built: 1907 Architect: Antonin Nechodoma Architectural style: Bungalow, integrating Neo-Gothic, Spanish Revival, Spanish Baroque, and byzantine elements. Governing body: Private NRHP Reference#: 87001822 Added to NRHP: October 29, 1987
The Primera Iglesia Metodista Unida de Ponce (English: First United Methodist Church of Ponce. Officially, Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church) was the first structure erected in Puerto Rico by the celebrated architect Antonin Nechodoma. The building, which houses a Methodist-faith church, is located on Villa street in Ponce, Puerto Rico, in the city's historic district and dates from 1907. The structure was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on October 29, 1987.
The First United Methodist Church of Ponce is a magnificent example of early 20th century eclecticism, integrating Neo-Gothic, Spanish Revival, Spanish Baroque, and byzantine elements. It is constructed entirely of rusticated, reinforced-concrete with gabled wood and corrugated sheet metal roofs. In volume, the church consists of a gabled single-nave, parallel to the street and subdivided into three sections. A large, central cross-gable creates the main facade at Calle Villa, facing north.
On Calle Villa, the cross-gable is articulated by a Spanish-baroque style rope pediment. Flanking this gabled, central transept are two square-plan towers, a shorter turret on the west and a taller bell-tower on the east, both resting upon the intersections of the main nave and cross-gable. The main gable is divided into three bays: a wide, central bay with a large, wide, four-centered gothic arch stained-glass window and two flanking bays with similar but smaller and narrower stained-glass windows. Above the central bay, a stained glass Spanish-renaissance oculus (consisting of a square with semicircular projections at each of its four sides) occupies the area within the pediment.
The east bell-tower consists of a two-storey rusticated base and step-backs to an onion-shaped cupola above the belfry. At the ground level, an entry vestibule is created by an open, four-centered archway. At the second story, still within the tower's rusticated base-section, a series of four narrow, stained-glass strip windows provide a distinct, modernist, element. The first segment of the step-backs of the tower contains two smaller strip windows, and the following, taller set-back houses the church-bell behind narrow arches, one on each of the four sides, supported by Corinthian columns. The onion-cupola caps the composition.
The smaller, west tower is completely rusticated and terminates in a rope pediment, at a level slightly lower than the base of the opposite tower. At the ground level there is a vestibule similar to that of the other tower and above, a circular opening with an oculus within. The main nave extends only one bay beyond the towers. These bays are identical to the smaller stained-glass bays of the main gable. A series of low buttresses supports all major walls, one at each extreme of. each wall. The side gables of the main nave repeat, exactly, the articulation of the facade of the main cross-gable.
A rusticated concrete and wrought-iron gate surrounds the property, articulated by square pillars at approximately 20 foot intervals, and spanned by an approximately 2 foot high rusticated concrete base and bar-like wrought-iron railings above.
The Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Ponce is a very good example of Antonin Nechodoma's religious architecture. This Czech architect was one of the first non-Hispanic designers to work in Puerto Rico. A colleague of Frank Lloyd Wright under Louis Sullivan, Nechodoma was responsible for the development of the Puerto Rican Bungalow style which spread rapidly throughout the Island during the 1920s and 1930s. Nechodoma was author of at least three non-Roman-Catholic churches and many magnificent prairie-style upper-class residences. Most of Nechodoma's buildings have unfortunately been demolished, and most of his remaining structures are now considered landmarks.
Nechodoma's works were carried out between 1907 and 1928, and the original plans of the church are dated 1907. This fact provides reason to believe that the Methodist Episcopal Church of Ponce was the first structure erected in Puerto Rico by the celebrated architect.
The materials used to construct the church are also of importance in the history of construction in Puerto Rico. Reinforced concrete, the principal material used in the church, was seldom, if at all, used at this early date in Puerto Rico. Contemporary concrete buildings exhibited a lack of understanding of the then-new material, evidenced by extremely thick walls and excessive use of iron beams (traditional means of construction applied to modern materials). These characteristics are not found in the construction of this building; quite the contrary, the concrete is used in an elegant and even decorative fashion, evidencing Nechodoma's knowledge of North-American construction techniques and his complete distance from the local building customs. In fact, the building appears to be made of stone and not concrete.
This church is also important in Puerto Rico's religious history since it was one of the first non-Roman Catholic churches built after the change of sovereignty in 1898. Until then, the only non-Catholic church allowed to practice in Puerto Rico had been the Anglican church. The Methodist Church is an example of the freedom of worship instated after the U.S. occupation of the island, and is the most prominent non-Catholic structure in the city of Ponce.
- ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-02-10. http://nrhp.focus.nps.gov/natreg/docs/All_Data.html.
- ^ a b c d e Felix Julian del Campo, State Historian; and Hector F. Santiago, State Architectural Historian, Puerto Rico Historic Preservation Office. (San Juan, Puerto Rico) August, 1987. In National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form. United States Department of the Inferior. National Park Service. (Washington, D.C.) Page 3. Listing Reference Number 87001822. August, 1987.
- ^ a b c d e f g Felix Julian del Campo, State Historian; and Hector F. Santiago, State Architectural Historian, Puerto Rico Historic Preservation Office. (San Juan, Puerto Rico) August, 1987. In National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form. United States Department of the Inferior. National Park Service. (Washington, D.C.) Page 2. Listing Reference Number 87001822. August, 1987.
- The Puerto Rico Eagle. Feb. 1, 1909.
- Architects and Builders' Magazine. 1909, p. 289.
- Eduardo Newman Gandia. Breve Historia de la Ciudad de Ponce. Ponce, Puerto Rico: 1913.
- Directorio Comercial de Ponce. 1985.
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