Winnetka’s First Church Site


Original Christ Church (formerly Garland Church)
building, 1898.

Gazette Article by Linda Corwin, Winter 1994
Updated November 16, 2021

A Wayside Tavern for the Weary: Site for Winnetka’s First Church

A wayside tavern for weary pioneers on their long trek from New York to Wisconsin became Winnetka’s first church, Christ Church. When John and Susannah Garland and their eight children reached the Patterson Tavern in 1847, en route from the East to the wilds of Wisconsin, they stayed overnight for a rest. Awakening to the enchantment of the woods and ravines here, they decided to settle in what is now Winnetka.

Garland purchased the tavern from the Widow Patterson and operated it for ten years. It was the tradition in colonial New England that a village’s church be located near a tavern so that churchgoers could retreat to the warmth of the public meeting place after services. Initially, Garland closed the tavern to travelers on Sundays, conducting services for his family and friends. Eventually, he built a house for his family just south of the tavern. There, he held the very first township meeting for New Trier. In 1869, he built Garland Church. A marble tablet memorializing his wife, Susannah, and dedicating it to the “Glory of God,” is in the beautiful hilltop church on Sheridan Road that is now Christ Church.

In the liberal tradition of Winnetka’s pioneers, the church was to be a “meeting-house for any and all denomination.” Indeed, Congregationalists and others worshiped there. Seven years later, in 1876, Garland gave the church and the land on which Christ Church now stands to the Episcopalians in honor of his fourth wife, Juliette. This site, because of its history of early use by settlers, is known as the “Cradle of Winnetka.”

When John and Juliette Garland donated the church to the Episcopalians, they specifically requested that the “property be used as an Episcopal Church and as a final burial lot for the family of John Garland and his descendants forever…at all times free and open to all worshippers alike…”

The burial lot near the church contains the graves of Susannah and John Garland, Erastus Patterson (the original owner of Patterson Tavern), and his daughter Lucia.

In 1904, the original church was given to the First Scandinavian Evangelical Church and was disassembled and moved, board-by-board, to what is now 886 Elm Street. That same year, Mr. William M. Hoyt donated funds to build a larger church on the same site of the original Christ Church on Sheridan Road to memorialize his daughter and her children. The building, designed by Winnetka architect William Otis, stands as a memorial to Mrs. Emilie Hoyt Fox and her three children, who were killed in the Iroquois Theater fire in Chicago in 1903. 

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