La Santísima Trinidad Church is the oldest Methodist church in Puerto Rico. It is located on Sol Street in Old San Juan. The structure, designed by Czech architect Antonín Nechodoma, is an example of Neo-Gothic architecture.
In 1900, missionary Charles W. Dress arrived in Puerto Rico from the United States with the task of bringing the Methodist doctrine to the island. The first congregation was English-speaking, because there was already a large number of United States soldiers on the island. On March 30, 1900, the first services were held on Cruz Street. In August of that year, they relocated to Sol Street.
The first Spanish-speaking pastor of the congregation, the Reverend Manuel Andújar, assumed leadership of the church in 1901. In addition to the bible school located in the main church, two additional schools were founded in La Perla neighborhood. Other sites of worship were established in the Barrio Obrero, Puerta de Tierra, and Santurce neighborhoods and in the island prison on the Paseo de la Princesa in Old San Juan. In the 1920s, the church inaugurated one of the first kindergartens, where free classes were offered to poor children. The official name of the school, which was an extension of the Robinson School in Santurce, was the McKinley Free School and Kindergarten, but in the community it was known as “the little school with the yard.” It was in operation until the 1950s.
Under the direction of contractor Frank B. Hatch, construction began on February 7, 1922, of the church structure that still stands today. Antonín Nechodoma, a Czech architect based in Puerto Rico, was responsible for the design. He introduced to the island the prairie style architecture that was popularized by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, but he took the tropical climate into consideration in his designs. In the architecture of his religious structures, however, he followed the North American mission style, along with Gothic and Classic influences.
La Santísima Trinidad Church is Neo-Gothic in style. The interior columns and walls are covered with treated wood. The ceiling is sheathed with cedar and mahogany and the beams are made of balata wood. Most of the stained glass windows in the walls have been preserved to the present. The main façade has a rosette (a circular window with stained glass) that was donated by the family of the first Spanish-speaking pastor of the congregation, the Reverend Manuel Andújar. In the church’s tower is a bell from the Meneely Bell Company of New York that was a donation from Sarah Hines, a woman from the United States who lived in San Juan, in memory of her husband.
Due to deterioration over the years, a restoration of the church began in 1975 and has been carried out in various stages. First, the altar and the wood wall coverings were restored. The stained glass windows and the ceiling were repaired during the 1980s and finally, in 1995, the bell tower and parish house, which is located in an adjacent building, were restored. The old pews were also replaced. In recent years, the wood walls and the frames of the stained glass windows have also been restored, as well as the kneeler.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 17, 2014.
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