Stillmore Methodist is a beautiful church built in the Romanesques Revival style in 1907. In addition to its sheer beauty it is also significant because it was designed by Charles Edward Choate, one of Georgia’s most prolific and talented architects. Mr. Choate began his architecture practice in the early 1890s and continued until his death in 1929. Although trained as an architect, he also was a Methodist Minister. Interestingly Mr. Choate’s grandfather, Jacob Thompson Choate was also an architect who designed the old Capitol building in Milledgeville and the Wesleyan Female School in Macon.
Shortly after the town of Stillmore was founded in the early 1890s, the Methodists of Stillmore organized a congregation in 1892 and Charles Edward Choate was chosen as the first pastor in December of that year. In 1895 a small frame church was built on land donated by George Brinson, the founder of Stillmore and the deed conveyed to the Trustees of the First Methodist Episcopal Church. Unfortunately, in 1905, the church was struck by lightening and was destroyed. Construction on the current church was begun and Charles Edward Choate, who had since left the ministry to practice architecture full time, was chosen to design it. The church was subsequently completed in 1907 at a cost of $7,500.
Mr. Choate, after leaving the ministry and devoting full time to architecture, had a prolific career and soon became a “regional designer” of commercial, residential and institutional buildings. He did a great deal of his work in Washington County and in 1994, “Buildings Designed by Charles Edward Choate in Washington County, Georgia between 1895 and 1919” were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Stillmore Methodist was placed on the National Register in 1999. The church was heavily damaged by fire in 1915 but was restored in the original Choate design in 1916 at a cost of $10,000.
By the early 1920’s, the church had grown to a membership of over 200 congregants and was assigned a full-time pastor. However, the familiar story of the boll weevil, economic hard times, and migration to the cities in search of employment began to take its toll on rural churches like this all over Georgia. Membership and attendance is in the low double digits now, but the church is still hanging on and lovingly cared for by a small congregation that does what it can with very limited resources. We are grateful to them for their stewardship over the last 100 years of this wonderful old treasure. Stillmore still has services each Sunday at 11am and they would welcome a visit to see this Charles Edward Choate masterpiece. Click on the map below for directions.
Click and scroll the gallery photos below for more information.
This bright view of the meeting house's interior gives us insight into the good and the sad at Stillmore today. The good is that this sanctuary remains in remarkable shape and perfectly reflects its early 20th century heritage, except for the carpet and chandelier. The grand windows reach to the pressed tin ceiling and their design is certainly of the period. The beautiful, heart pine floors, where exposed, and the handsome pews which rest upon it are all in perfect condition. The bad and sad is visible in the sanctuary ceiling. Clearly, in spite of the best efforts of the dwindling congregation, Stillmore's roof has been seriously compromised for some time and is leaking in many places. The gaping holes in the ceiling will quickly expand and endanger the entire sanctuary if not repaired.
The congregation has strived to insure the interior remains as originally designed. Here we see the north window whose center, circular element had to be replaced (along with the same element in the south window) in the 20th century, at great expense, after hurricane damage. This reflects the proud stewardship of the church members. On the other hand, also evident in this photo is flaking plaster, paint and rust. This is evidence of the insidious damage being inflicted on the roof and ceiling structure by the leaky roof.
Here we can experience the handsome chancel and balustrade as we look toward the rear of the church. This view from the pulpit evokes the airy and welcoming atmosphere present in the Stillmore sanctuary today. Its design and decorative elements clearly enhance the visual experience within this lovely old church. It would be a shame for this landmark to fade into obscurity.
This old piano has provided accompaniment to generations of Stillmore congregants. Weekly services continue to be held, but dwindling attendance threatens the church's future. As you can see, weekly offerings in the $500 range will not cover the expenses of maintaining, much less repairing and restoring this formidable building. We wish them luck and success in their efforts to do so.
This west window survived the hurricane damage that blew out its north and south counterparts. Those two had center circular panes depicting a dove and a lamb. This original one has a crown and remains a symbol of strength, resiliency and longevity to many in the congregation.
Stillmore is a wonderful example of the architectural skill of Charles Edward Choate and we are pleased that it has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Services are still held each Sunday at 11. Stop by if you are in the neighborhood and pay your respects to this historic rural masterpiece.
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