Side A: The Universalist religious movement spread across Ohio as the state was settled in the 1800s. Universalists proclaimed a loving God and universal salvation. Believers were sometimes scorned as “no-Hell-ers.” Olmsted’s First Universalist Society was founded in 1834. Early church members included Olmsted pioneers Asher Coe, David Stearns, Charles Olmsted, Elias Frost, and their families. Initially, services were held in the Union House of Worship, which Universalists shared with Methodists and Presbyterians. In 1847, the Olmsted Universalist congregation built this Greek Revival style church at the corner of Butternut and Coe Ridge (now Lorain) Roads. John Ames supervised the construction of the building, which cost $974. The church bell in use today was cast in Boston in 1851. The bell sounded the alarm for fires and tolled when community members died, as well as announcing worship services. (continued on the other side)
Side B: (continued from other side) Universalists opposed slavery and promoted equality for all. Church legend asserts that slaves escaping to freedom on the Underground Railroad hid in the belfry. A woman, Abbie Danforth, was a minister here in 1879. The congregation became the First Universalist Church in 1871. The stained glass windows were added during a renovation in 1881-1882. As North Olmsted grew, Lorain Road was widened. To protect the building from damage caused by heavy traffic, the congregation moved its sanctuary to this location in 1963. The church was designated a North Olmsted Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The building is the oldest surviving Universalist church in Ohio in continuous use. It joined the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations after a national merger of the Unitarians and Universalists in 1961.