Mentor Christian Church was organized in March, 1828 by Sidney Rigdon, a follower of Alexander Campbell. Campbell was a renowned leader of the movement which later became known as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
There were fifty charter members of the congregation. They worshiped in what was described as a gloomy brick building, fifty-two by forty-two feet, There were long, wood burning stoves on each side. The women sat on one side, and the men on the other. To supplement the heat from the stoves in the coldest weather, some members brought foot-warmers to church.
The original building used by the congregation was situated in Mentor Center, later known as Mentor Village, on the site now occupied by the Center Street Elementary School. The congregation outgrew the building in the next twenty-eight years.
In 1856, members began construction on a frame church on Mentor Avenue at Jackson Street, the location of the church today. They contributed timber, lumber and labor to the project. The building was completed later that year, and the congregation met for worship in the new church for the first time on Sunday, December 7, 1856.
James A. Garfield, who became the 20th President of the United States in 1881, and his family moved to Mentor around 1877. Garfield was a minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and was Headmaster of the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute in Hiram, Ohio before coming to Mentor. Some sources list him as "Principal" or "President" of the Institute, which later became Hiram College. The College is still affiliated with the Disciples of Christ.
While in Mentor, Garfield was active in Mentor Christian Church. He preached there on many occasions. He was also interested in music and provided financial support for the church music program.
He visited among the families of the congregation, including the Robert Radcliffs, the Shoemakers, the Clapps and the Burridges. Their names are on the stained glass windows which were installed in the church in 1906 and later built into the present structure.
In August, 1914 the cornerstone of the present building was laid. The Painesville Telegraph noted what a fine addition the new brick church would be to Mentor. The building is said to have been designed after a church dating from the Revolutionary War era, and located in Connecticut.
The congregation sold the frame building to the Township of Mentor, which had it moved across the street where it remains to this day. It was used many years by the township council, and is now known as Old Council Hall. In 1963 the City of Mentor acquired Old Council Hall. It is used for meetings and other functions.
The present building was completed in 1915. The education wing was added in 1956, and the sanctuary, in what is now the old part of the building, was remodeled in 1966. The room at the rear of the sanctuary was remodeled and dedicated as the Garfield Room in November, 1984.
(Credit: Mentor Christian Church)