The Tabernacle

History Book
History Book
History Book

Gracing the center of the grounds is the large domed tabernacle, which was built in 1920-1921. William “Uncle Bill” Paulson, a man who had been converted only a few years earlier, designed the imposing building. Measuring 100 x 125 feet, with a height of 50 feet, its construction was a major feat. The task was accom­plished by a group of volunteer laborers who were not afraid to undertake difficult projects. One challenge was putting into place the huge roof trusses, each of which weighed several tons, and was secured by central bolts weighing 300 pounds each. A twenty-foot space between the roof and ceiling provided coolness on warm days. Seating 1,800 to 2,000 people at that time, the sides of the building were canvas curtains that could be raised or lowered according to the weather.

The front gate and the large tent used during the 1920 camp meeting, just after the Duke Street campground was purchased.

The tabernacle was first used in the camp meeting of 1921. Initially, services were only held in the tabernacle during the summer camp meeting, and the building was boarded up for the remainder of the year. Later, Sunday attendance at the church downtown increased to the point where there was not adequate room for Sunday school classrooms, and parking became a problem. The decision was made to enclose the tabernacle, making it usable year around.

A wooden gate framed the path toward the tabernacle from Duke Street.

In 1939, the addition of wings to the sides of the tabernacle added thirty-six feet in width and greatly increased the building’s seating capacity. In the fall and winter of 1947, the tabernacle was enlarged, enclosed, and insulated. The adiant heating system installed was unique at that time. Copper tubes were laid five inches apart in the floor. Warm water flowing through the pipes gave even heat in the building, not varying more than two degrees from floor to ceiling.

The remodeling of the tabernacle changed the appearance of the interior. Sawdust gave way to a hard-surfaced floor; thick layers of straw on the area around the altars gave way to carpet; 2,400 modern auditori­um seats replaced long wooden benches. However, the Spirit present in the meetings never changed.

The tabernacle originally had canvas sides which were raised to let the breeze blow through. The floors were sawdust, and seating was on rustic wooden benches.