Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment : Ecumenical Music Festival Kicks Off Fairport Harbor's 200th Birthday Celebration

A Bicentennial 'Ecumenical Music Festival' on Sunday, January 22, 2012 will be kicking off Fairport's  year-long celebration of community, cultures, and history.  The program begins at 2:00 pm and will be held at the Zion Lutheran Church.   Located at 508 Eagle Street, everyone is invited.

The Early Churches of Fairport Harbor- 

The ecclesiastical history of most New England, early American communities followed the pattern of home-church-school.  Grandon was founded in 1812, settled and renamed Fairport in 1836.  While Fairport continued to grow and become a thriving hub of commerce, the history of its churches wouldn't arrive for nearly another half century.

The oldest church in Fairport is the Congregational Church on the Square which had its beginnings in 1869. The church was an outgrowth of the Congregational Church founded earlier in nearby Painesville.  The church was constructed for a cost of $1741 and its cornerstone was laid July 31, 1869.  As the church grew, additional space was needed.  Relief came in 1900, when a new church was built on the same spot.  The church on the square remains an active house of faith.

The First Evangelical Lutheran Church cited 1890 as its earliest date of existence.  Reverend William Williamson of Ashtabula served the Ashtabula-Conneaut-Fairport Harbor followers until his death in 1916.  The present church was constructed in 1928.  World events forced changes onto the church and in 1943 the church became part of the American Lutheran Church.

Zion Lutheran Church of Fairport Harbor had its origins as a direct result of Finnish immigrants.  Arriving in Ohio as early as 1880, nearly 200 called Fairport home just seven years later.  Although Reverend Williamson conducted early services, the Finns called to the Church of Finland for a pastor.  Reverend Abel Kivioja arrived in 1891.  The first church appeared in 1892 and the Zion Church was incorporated in 1893.  Today's church edifice came along in 1924.  Dating back to 1903, the Zion Lutheran Church owns the only cemetery in the village.

On the corner of Sixth and Plum Streets, a church was built in 1896.  The Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church cost just over $300.  Conceived as early as 1889, the early church history is open to some discussion.  However, it is known that by 1903 the church was chartered.  Renovations were made in 1964 and the church still active stands today.

St. Anthony's Church had its early roots as a mission under the administration of St. Mary's Parish in Painesville.  From these humble beginnings in 1887, the ten Catholic families in Fairport continued to grow and by 1899 on an acre of land a new Fairport Church was under construction.  July 15, 1900 became the official date of dedication.  Nationality ( Hungarian) versus territorial based issues arose in the years to follow but by 1947 an official decree resolved all differences.  The school built in 1926 continued to thrive.  A rectory was built in 1953 and St. Anthony of Padua remains a vibrant parish to this day.

Prior to WWI, Hungarians emigrated to the U.S.  In time many found their way to Fairport.  A Hungarian Reform Society existed as early as 1896 in Fairport.  A reformed congregation was established in 1910 and the first church was dedicated in 1913.  The present building was erected in 1928.  The church remains active to this day.

St. Michael's Byzantine Catholic Church was built in 1926.  The people of the Byzantine Catholic rite had first began to arrive in 1892.  These Ukranians and Slovaks shared various sites prior to 1926 and even traveled to Parma and Cleveland to celebrate their religious beliefs.  A church rectory followed in 1927 and Fairport's small yet diverse population had yet another cultural church.

The Inspirational House of Prayer (recent history) as well as the church histories mentioned above have all come to Fairport Harbor as a tribute to the rich cultural history and community that had its beginnings in 1812.  Come this Sunday and celebrate an ecumenical music festival that kicks-off a year-long history of the hidden gem known today as Fairport Harbor.

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