McConn Chapel has changed with Marion throughout the years. McConn has been used as a church, for classrooms, and as a coffee shop. College Wesleyan Church was the builder and first owner of the Chapel. Indiana Wesleyan University bought the building in 1961, for uses as classrooms and a chapel. McConn Chapel is currently used for youth church services and as a coffee shop for college students. The Chapel has been an important structure in south Marion throughout the years.
College Wesleyan Church
College Wesleyan Church was the first organization to use McConn Chapel. McConn Chapel was built in 1938 for use as a church. In 1895, Reverend Cyrus A. Billheimer started a tent revival on the corner of 38th and Washington streets. One year later, this tent service became known as The South Marion Wesleyan Methodist Church. Later that year in 1896 a small brick building was built on Boots Street to satisfy the growing needs of the congregation. As the years went by, the church continued to be blessed by God and kept increasing in size steadily (College Wesleyan Church).
In 1920, a small private college named Marion College was founded. This church and college would work closely together for the next 80-plus years (Elder). The small brick building on Boots Street was becoming too small for the worshipers of The South Marion Wesleyan Methodist Church. They looked around for ways of accommodating the lack of space and realized a great opportunity on the campus of Marion College. The building used for chapel at Marion College became the next place of worship for The South Marion Wesleyan Methodist Church. This building was used from 1920 until 1938. With the congregation still growing, things were going very well for The South Marion Wesleyan Methodist Church.
In 1938 building plans were revealed for a new building to be built directly on the Marion College Campus (College Wesleyan Church). On May 27, 1938 the cornerstone was laid for the new church, which would later become McConn Chapel. The new church would seat 300 people and even have classrooms in the basement for Sunday School. The budget for the church was very tight so paying for the new building would be a huge prayer. Two major donors came forward and made donations of $7200 and $15,000. This was over half of the $38,000 it would take to build the chapel. This was a huge step for The College Wesleyan Methodist Church of Marion, which changed its name in 1939.
Attendance grew during the next 8 years from 116 people to 204 worshipers. Services kept going well and soon College Wesleyan Church was in need of a new building with more space. Under the leadership of Pastor Garl Beaver, an agreement was made that Marion College would buy the church when a new building was finished. Marion College would use the old church as a chapel for the students. In June 1960, the new building for College Wesleyan began. This building would hold 700 people, compared to the capacity of 300 in McConn Chapel. The total cost for this building would be $361,300, a total of $323,300 more than the cost of McConn Chapel. College Wesleyan Church played a major role in the construction and use of McConn before the 1960’s (College Wesleyan Church).
Indiana Wesleyan University has played a major role in the use of McConn Chapel. The University acquired the Chapel in 1961 and has used it ever since. In June of 1917, the Educational Society of the Church appointed a five-man committee to establish a central college in Indiana. After meeting, it was decided that Marion College would be established in Marion, Indiana. The committee along with Edward A. Jones started making plans for the campus. Edward Jones worked with the land contracts and took the responsibility of putting together the campus. In September of 1920, Marion College opened to students with tuition costing $25 per term. The campus consisted of four principal buildings. The goal for Marion College was to “be a standard Indiana college.” Total assets for the college was valued at $250,000 along with 21 faculty members (Elder). Marion College grew steadily until 1960. Under the leadership of President Woodrow Goodman, the college was planning a major building and expansion project. New dormitories, a library, science building, gymnasium, and food center were all being planned. In 1961, Marion College bought the old church from College Wesleyan Church. This building was named McConn Chapel, after Dr. McConn who was president at Marion College for 28 years (Elder private interview). McConn Chapel would be used as a chapel for students. Again Marion College continued to grow and expand for the next 30 years.
Indiana Wesleyan University
In July 1988, Marion College was renamed Indiana Wesleyan University. “This will be a period of change,” was a quote from President Barnes during his first year in office. Change was a major part of Indiana Wesleyan for the next few years. Many of the top administrators were replaced along with the financial planning position. Also in 1988, the Leap program was developed for Adult Professional Studies. This would prove to be a huge moneymaker for the university. IWU was finally beginning to become well know and student enrollment began to grow. The campus in south Marion was becoming to big for its old regulations. In 1990, the Sheriffs Office agreed to work with Indiana Wesleyan University to provide campus protection from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. all year round. Change also took place the athletic department. Woman’s soccer and basketball were added and field hockey was dropped for “lack of interest in the area.” In 1991 a new art center was built to better the fine arts program. The Lilly Endowment fund has donated millions of dollars to the school for new buildings and the Leap Program. The maintenance program on the campus had 95 full time workers and a payroll of over $200,000 in 1993. New dormitories have been constructed almost every year to satisf~,’ the housing needs of the growing student population. Today, the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University has over 30 buildings and continues to grow. Indiana Wesleyan University has played a major role in the use of McConn Chapel from the 1960’s on. (Elder).
Uses Through the Years
McConn Chapel has had many different uses over the years. Even though McConn has only had two owners, a university and a church, it has been used for events ranging from concerts to student government meetings. Before 1961, the building was used as a church. Sunday School was taught in the classrooms down in the basement. These were the two primary uses of the chapel by College Wesleyan Church. (College Wesleyan Church) When Indiana Wesleyan University purchased the building in 1961, it was to be used as a prayer chapel for the students. Classes were taught from the basement rooms when the university was short on classrooms (Elder). After completing the new buildings, McConn Chapel was not needed for use as classrooms and it was too small to hold chapel services. The student government was permitted to use some of the classrooms and the Marionette Yearbook office was located in the basement for many years. The stage was also used for dramas and plays by the different student associations. Today, McConn is operated mostly by the student body. It holds JC Bodyshop youth services led by Pastor Darren Campbell every Sunday morning and evening, but is mainly used for the college students. The chapel is actually referred to as the “coffee shop” by many of the students around campus. A coffee bar is located in McConn along with a small snack bar. The building is open weekdays from 8 p.m. until 1 a.m. for students to work on homework or talk. On weekends McConn Chapel is occasionally used for concerts ranging from student rock bands to the jazz band. The basement classrooms are primarily used for storage, with the exception of the student government room located in one of them. McConn’s uses have changed with the times and its owners (Elder private interview).
Throughout the years, McConn Chapel has changed with Marion. College Wesleyan Church was the builder and first owner of the Chapel. McConn has been used as a church, for classrooms, and as storage space. Indiana Wesleyan University bought the building in 1961, for uses as classrooms and a coffee shop. McConn Chapel is currently used for youth church services and as a place for college students to talk.
- College Wesleyan Church. 1895-1995. October 8, 1995.
- Elder, Marjorie J. The Lord, The Landmarks, The Life. Indiana: Indiana Wesleyan University, 1994.
- Elder, Marjorie J. Telephone interview. 25 Dec. 2000.
Daniel Boivin submitted this paper on January 16, 2001 for Mr. Munn's and Mr. Lakes' class at Marion High School.