Church History



     In February of 1889, a group of eight formed a Methodist Society. On May 12, 1889 with fifty members, they started a Sunday school in a room over Rife’s & Reese’s grocery store on Woodbine Street. The membership grew and under the leadership of Reverend J. S. Wilcox a chapel was erected in 1890. This was known as the Curtin Heights Episcopal Church. May 11, 1890 the church cornerstone was laid and in December 13, 1891 the churchhad their first dedication. With the congregation growing in 1893 two additional wings were added.

      On December 30, 1894, the church was completely destroyed by fire. Within two years, under the leadership of Dr. S. Fasick, Pastor, the spirited people of Curtin Heights had built, a new brick structure. (Today it’s the chapel located in the very center of the church). In 1895, the church was completed and by July of the same year the present church cornerstone was laid.

     December 15, 1895 the church was re-dedicated. This site was the central training camp for soldiers during the Civil War, and strategically situated as a focal point in History. From Camp Curtin over 300,000 brave men went forth to save the Union.

      In September of 1914 the charter of the Church was amended changing the name to Camp Curtin Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church. That same year the decision was made to enlarge the Church and make it a memorial to all Civil War Soldiers. The planning of the Church Silver Jubilee Anniversary, April 19 to 27, included a goal to raise $38,000 to expand the present structure. On the 100 ft wide by 78 ft deep Church lot they extended the building to 78x78 square feet for the memorial sanctuary. The style of architecture is Italian Renaissance, constructed of Pennsylvania stone.

     On June 23, 1915, under the leadership of Reverend Alvin S. Williams the membership had grown. Ground was broken, on December 3, 1916 and the sanctuary auditorium, with incline floor galleries on two sides having seating capacity of 700 became a reality. The cost was $60.000.

     In 1916, the large allegorical painting which depicts Christ appearing to a dying soldier was painted by C. Day Rudy. (The original proof hangs on the wall in the church office today). Rudy was a member of “The Sixteeners", who were Civil War orphans who looked for work once they were 16 years of age to help support their families. The family business, C. Day Rudy Co at 1814 N. 3rd Street in Harrisburg was located in a brick building which still stands today. Mr. Rudy also made stained glass, and an example of his work is the Rose Window in the back of the present sanctuary. The painting was dedicated on May 30, 1916, Memorial Day weekend.

     Adjacent to the church is the smallest State Park in the United States, in which stands the monument of Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin. Andrew Gregg Curtin lived from 1815 - 1894. He was also a lawyer in Bellefonte, Centre County, Pennsylvania (near Penn State). At the age of 43 he was elected governor of Pennsylvania, and served from 1861-1867, during the Civil War. He was a member of the Whig political party and later joined the newly formed Republican party and became one of Abraham Lincoln=s strongest supporters. With the start of the Civil War Curtin established the first and largest training camp, which was named after him by its first commander Major Joseph Knipe. Curtin was the first governor to send troops to defend Washington D.C.

     In 1939, when the three branches of the Methodist church united the name of the church was changed to Camp Curtin Memorial Methodist Church.

     On April 23, 1968, with the merger of the former Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church the name was again changed to Camp Curtin Memorial United Methodist Church.

     On May 20, 1984, Camp Curtin Memorial United Methodist Church celebrated its 95th Anniversary.

     On July 1, 1987 a new page was written in the history of Camp Curtin. The Camp Curtin Memorial United Methodist and Mitchell Memorial United Methodist churches shared Sunday Worship and in June 25, 1989 the two churches merged. The present pastor is the Rev. John L. Kurtz.



    The Camp Curtin Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church is significant under Criterion A of the National Register Criteria as the building, through location, is intrinsically tied to the historic significance of the land which it occupies, the largest mustering and deploymentCamp in the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War and accordingly was built as a memorial to the 300,000 Union soldiers who passed through the site. Moreover, the Church is significant under Criterion C of the National Register Criteria because of its rich execution of the Romanesque Revival architectural style, popular at the time as evidenced through the original portion of the building. This style was replicated by the later sanctuary structure. Both stand collectively as the principal anchor building to the eligible North Sixth Street National Register Historic District. Furthermore, the building is significant under Criteria Consideration (Exceptions) A and F as a religious and commemorative style given the Church's architectural and interior artistic distinction, particularly evidenced by the Civil War Mural and artifact room as well as for its commemorative value.
    In April of 1861, it became strikingly clear upon the fall of Fort Sumter that President Abraham Lincoln and Pennslyvania Governor Andrew Curtin issued a call for volunteers to take-up arms against the Confederacy. Harrisburg, our state capital,  became an important Civil War transportation center. New recruits would converge on hastily established Union camps from which troops would be dispatched.  Harrisburg's Camp Curtin was the largest enlistment camp with 300,000 enlistments passing through its gates. This camp was located just north of Maclay Street between present-day North 7th and North 5th Streets. The area, which had been the grounds of the Dauphin County Agricultural Society were commandeered by Governor Curtin to establishment a Camp. The camp was initially named Camp Union. Later, the camp would later bear Goernor Curtin's name. 
    Camp Union also housed regiments from other Union states. Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Wiconsin were mustered into service here.
    The Camp held Confederate prisoners of war. There was also a hospital among its various wooden buildings at the end of the war.  After the war ended, the Camp became a major point of discharge of the victorious Union troops. The Camp finally closed its gates on (November 11, 1865). The Camp was torn down, and the land was eventually absorbed into the northward-moving urbanization of Harrisburg.