In April of 1898, a group of friends met at the home of Mr. and Mrs. F. M. Barton of 1450 Grace Avenue for the purpose of starting a Methodist Church to serve the eastern section of Lakewood then known as Rockport. ln addition to the Bartons, the group included Mr. and Mrs. E. C. Kolfrath, Mr.and Mrs. Fredrick Baird, Mr. and Mrs. W. S. Wright, Mr. and Mrs. S. F. Long, and Mr. and Mrs. Hower {or Hewer). With them was a City Missionary, the Rev. Howard K. Hilberry, who became the church’s first pastor. A charter was signed, making the congregation officially a church. At the early services, Mrs. Barton’s sewing machine served as the pulpit.

The following month, May 1898, the congregation purchased a lot at the comer of Winchester Avenue and Detroit Street for $2,783. The Church rented a house on Winchester Avenue for $16 a month, with the understanding that the church services were to be held in the big front parlor and that the house would serve as home to the Hillberrys, who would pay half the rent. The Rev. Bilberry received $360 salary during his first year as pastor.

During this period, the church was aided in organization by the Rev. Duston Kemble, Presiding Elder (now called District Superintendent). Sunday school classes were held in the room over Southern’s Grocery Store on Winchester Ave.

The original church building was constructed by J. W. Christford Company in 1899, and was dedicated on June 24, 1900. By 1905 the congregation had outgrown the building, and it was enlarged by extending it to the west. This addition cost $7 ,080 plus $1,565 for interior furnishings. The new structure was dedicated on January 28, 1906 by Bishop Moore from Mt. Clemens, Michigan. A sign costing $2 and large enough for those passing by on the streetcar to read was put on the front of the church.

By 1906 the church had its fifth pastor (preachers moved frequently in those days), the Rev. H. D. Fleming. At this time there were 152 members. In 1907, the first Deaconess, Miss Mary Howell, was assigned to the church to help the pastor.

The Church continued to grow and by 1909 a new and larger building was envisioned. The pastor at the time was the Rev. Duston Kemble, who held an unusually long pastorate for that period in Methodist history. During his pastorate (1908-1915), all debts were paid on the building and plans were formulated for a new brick structure. The first plans were submitted to the Official Board in March of 1913, but it was not until 1919 that ground was broken for the new sanctuary.

On November 2, 1919, the cornerstone was laid for the new building. Upon its completion, a great service of consecration took place during the week of January 23, 1921. Meetings were held every day of the week with outstanding preachers filling the pulpit. Bishop William F. Anderson, O. D. was probably the most famous preacher of the week. The choir was under
the direction of Charles H. Hofrickter and Mr. Neuenschwander presided at the new organ, which had cost $6,800.

In 1940 the mortgage was burned. The congregation had paid in principal and interest some $150,000 for the building. The organ was remodeled at this time for about $5,000.

In 1948, through the generosity of Miss Louise Schoenhut, the church purchased a parsonage at 1451 Grace Avenue. The house, on a 50 x 150 foot lot, cost $12,000. In 1957 the church took out a new mortgage and note for $50,000 to cover a number of remodeling projects on the church building and parsonage. The mortgage was retired in 1964. In 1959, the Carpenter family donated chimes for the organ.

Even before the mortgage-burning in April, 1964, church members had visions of a new building. Time and continued usage by hundreds of faithful members had taken its toll on the brick building at the comer of Detroit (now Avenue) and Winchester.

The lots for the new structure on Lake A venue at the comer of Cove Avenue, and extending to Clifton Boulevard at the rear were purchased for $90,000, and construction of the new building was commenced in late summer 1969. Construction of the building was under the direction of John H. Von Gunten, Architect, with the Structural Sales Corporation as General Contractor. The cost of the building was approximately $450,000, with a mortgage of about $265,000.

On May 17, 1970 the ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone was held. A Communion Service was held in the new building on October 11, 1970. A day long open house was held on October 18, 1970. On that date the first service of worship was held. Cove has continued to host Christian worship since that fateful day.

Fifteen years later a sermon was preached in the “new” sanctuary of Cove Church. This sermon, giving the scriptural foundations for the symbolism of our (Cove) church building and sanctuary, was presented at Cove Church on Laity Sunday, October 13, 1985, by Marguerite Peachman, Edwin Usiak, and William Cheuvront. Also used during this service was a prayer by Nancy Wright. All four were members of the original Building Committee for Cove Church.

Why did the Church move and take the name Cove? Because it is located at the comer of Cove and Lake Avenues. But there is more. Detroit Avenue Methodist Church was situated on a busy commercial street. There was no room for expansion, no room to park, not even any space to beautify. It became necessary to relocate.

After much searching of Lakewood, as well as much searching of souls, the Detroit A venue congregation found itself in possession of two acres of land at the comer of Lake and Cove Avenues, with the option to buy an adjoining lot. What did it matter that on the property were houses to be dealt with? Within walking distance was Lake Erie. From its shores could be seen a different kind of traffic. There were all kinds of boats and ships. Views of sky and sea were magnificent, in storm or calm, in day or night. There would be room for a beautiful church with trees and flowers — and room for parking. The location was unique.

Research uncovered exciting facts. Cove Avenue was cut through farm land from Detroit Avenue to Lake Erie in 1873. It was one of the first cross-town roads in East Rockport, as Lakewood was then known. There was a cove on the shore at the end of the road — the only shelter for small craft between the Cuyahoga and Rocky River(s). Also, there was a sandy beach, which, by the 1890’s had become a popular bathing beach and picnic ground.

The city of Cleveland grew rapidly because of its harbor. As population increased and industry flourished due, in large part, to the volume of lake traffic, lights along the shore became an impressive sight. Eventually this great inland sea inspired a great idea in the minds of the Detroit Avenue congregation. To highlight the unique location of their acquired land , they would build a ship. They would call it Cove Church. The Bible was their reference book.

The Anchor Cross as the symbol of the new church is quite in keeping with the nautical theme. Every ship must have one or more anchors with ropes or chains to lower them into the sea and return them to the ship for use again and again. The quote from a brochure used at the time Cove Church was dedicated explains the symbolism:

Cove Church is the people of history who founded the Detroit Avenue Methodist Church in 1898, and those, who through the years, have brought us to the present. Pridefully, then, we offer the Anchor Cross as a symbol of solidarity — of strength through love and hope.

The Anchor Cross on the inside of the church is 10 feet high. The cross on the outside front of the building is 7 feet high. . These shadows on either side of the cross are a bonus. They are due to the fact that our ship has a pointed prow to cut through the waves. This can be seen by looking between the long front windows. The walls are angled. The shadows were not planned. They were discovered when the lights were first turned on. Those who came for early morning communion before the first service held at Cove Church were overcome with awe at the first sight of the beautifully prepared altar, the cross and the shadows all surrounded by a great stillness. It is especially significant at Easter. The stonework is also symbolic of our solidarity. The varied sizes of the stones carefully cemented together for a perfect, sturdy wall, is Cove Church. Each person, great or small, joined together by love and purpose, is important to the whole.