History of the Church
The congregation of the Philip G. Cochran Memorial United Methodist Church, located at Griscom and Howell Streets celebrated an anniversary on June 13th 2012. The church organization was 140 years old, and the present church building was 85 years old.
Methodism began in the Dawson area in approximately 1820. The first church was erected in 1823 in Liberty (Dickerson Run). The LIberty Methodist Episcopal Church was still standing in 1861. It was first organized in 1820 at the Dickerson home. In 1861 the congregation disputed over politics and seperated, forming the Methodist Church in Vanderbilt and a congregation in Dawson.
On June 13, 1872, two lots were purchased on Griscom Street. A 30x40 foot frame building was constructed and dedicated on the ground in the fall of 1872. The Rev. Charles Smith from Allegheny officiated at the ceremony. In 1873, the dawson church received its first officially appointed pastor, the Rev. S. T. Mitchell. He was assisted by C. C. Emerson.
In 1900 the old church was dismantled and moved to a location in Lower Tyrone Township. It was reconstructed and became the Bryan Methodist Episcopal Church and is still in use today having undergone many beautiful modifications over the years. The Dawson church first appeared on the appointment list of the Pittsburgh Conference in 1872. Other congregations included in the circuit were Wesley Chapel, Mount Pleasant, Bryan, Lebanon, Jacobs Creek and Scottdale.
The frame church was replaced by an artistic adn well-constructed brick building in 1900. This new structure was erected by Mrs. Sarah B. Cochran and son James in memory of a loving husband and indulgent father, Philip G. Cochran. This new church was entirely financed by Mrs. Cochran. Mrs. Cochran provided the church with a 12 ft. high oil painting of Raphael's Sistine Madonna. This copy of the Sistine Madonna was presented to the Cochran Memorial Methodist Church by Sarah B. Cochran on November 7, 1906. It hung in the brick church first and then was transferred to the present church. The only other part of the brick church that is part of the present church is the stained glass window in the stairway leading to the balcony overlooking the chapel. It is a Tiffany window. A picture of this beautiful brick church, the Sistine Madonna and Tiffany window are included in the 2002 75th Anniversary Memorial Book.
In the early 1920s it was decided that the brick church should be razed and replaced with a gothic sanctuary and social aditorium. This structure is considered a masterpiece of architecture. Its scope of facilities adn beauty ranks it as one of the outstanding buildings dedicated to Methodism in Pennsylvania.
Dedicated in November 1927, the Philip G. Cochran Memorial United Methodist Church, the stone structure brings a metropolitan look to this small Youghiogheny River town. It was built at an original cost of $325,000.00; the building was valued in 2002 at more than $5,000,000.00. Between 1925/1927 the Social Auditorium was completed. In 1927 the church and Sunday School additions were finished. This church was built in memory of Susan B. Cochran's husband, Philip and son, James.
The building is constructed of Beaver County limestone, trimmed in Indiana County limestone. The tower and spire are of limestone. Sussex architecture, following that of early churches of Normandy is prevalent. The nave of the church is paved with handmade tile and the pillars rest on marble bases.
The architect was Thomas Pringle, the builder was Edward Wehr, and the superintendent of construction was J. L. Hull.
In order to build the present church it was necessary to purchase some homes, places of business and more land. The borough of Dawson closed Sycamore Alley between Railroad sreet and Howell Street. Some buildings were razed, while others including the parsonage were moved.
The laying of the cornerstone of the church took place on May 1, 1927, Dr. H.N. Cameron of Pittsburgh, superintendent of the Pittsburgh District of the Methodist Episcopal Churches conducted the ritual and the Rev. William F. Seitter led the prayer. The presentation of the stone was made by Mr. E. Strawn, president of the official board and building committee. A box was placed under the stone.
The contents of the box included photographs of Philip G. Cochran, Mrs. Sarah B. Cochran, James P. Cochran, J.L. Hull, superintendent of construction of the church, a Bible, Methodist Hymnal, Methodist Dicipline, Pittsburgh Christian Advocate, a dollar bill, a list of the building committee, a list of the officers of the Ladies Aid Society, the names of the official board, the names of members of the church, copies of the cornerstone laying, copies of several area newspapers, and the personal cards of E.A. Wehr, builder; and Thomas Pringle, architect.
The stone was laid in place by Dr. Thomas G. Hicks with the assistance of Mrs. Cochran and J.S. Hull.
The church and auditorium are constructed of Beaver County Limestone and trimmed in Indiana County limestone. The tower and spire are of limestone. Rare in design and architecture, the altar is located directly below the 105-foot steeple. The nave of the church is paved with hand-made tile and the pillars rest on marble bases. The floor has various designs throughout the sanctuary. The stained glass windows by Henry Hunt are full of animated and vibrant colors. The pipe organ was specially designed for the church. The organ was placed in the church on November 22, 1927 at a cost of $9,250.00 by the Austin Organ Company, Hartford Connecticut. A large electric motor, coupled to a motor generator supplying the current for the eletric action, furnished the air for the pipes. This machinery is housed in a sound-proof room in the basement of the church building.
On June 10, 1980 the church was placed on the Pennsylvania Inventory of Historic Places in Pennsylvania by eht Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in Harrisburg. On June 6, 1984 the church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.