Temple in Versailles
has unique history
was inspired, built
with money from James Tyson
VERSAILLES, Ind. (January 2005) Administered
by the National Park Service, the National Register of Historic Places
is the official listing of districts, sites, buildings, structures and
objects found to be worthy of preservation due to significance in American
history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture. The list
includes approximately 78,000 sites, several of which are found in the
Southeastern corner of Indiana.
The Tyson Temple United Methodist Church in Versailles,
Ind., is one of the few churches, especially locally, listed on the
According to the National Parks Service National Register of Historic
Places criteria, properties owned by religious institutions or used
for religious purposes are not ordinarily eligible for the National
Register. The architectural and artistic distinction of Tyson Temple
United Methodist Church, however, creates an exception under which this
religious institution qualifies.
The church, built in 1937 with the funding and inspiration of James
H. Tyson, was listed on the National Register on Sept. 8, 1995, because
of its unique art deco architecture.
Tyson was born in Versailles, where he lived until age 15. He pursued
a career as a printer. His family remained in Versailles, however, he
eventually settled in Chicago. Tyson roomed in Chicago at the same boarding
house as Charles Walgreen, a local drug store owner. According to church
records, one evening Walgreen said that if he had $1,500, he would buy
another store nearby. Tyson said that if Walgreen wanted the store,
he had the $1,500. That, in essence, was the beginning of the Walgreen
Drug Co. and an investment that made Tyson a rich man.
In 1926, Tyson created a trust fund of 18,000 shares of Walgreen stock
for the community of Versailles. Terms stipulated that the trustees
of the Versailles United Methodist Church, where his mother was a charter
member, would administer the fund. The money was used to benefit the
town of Versailles with the construction of the Tyson Library and Tyson
Waterworks. Another stipulation of the trust agreement stated that the
community must build a new church in memory of his mother, Eliza Adams
Tyson. Tysons ideas from his trips around the world were inspiration
for much of the construction of the new building, which became Tyson
Temple United Methodist Church.
Tyson Temple United Methodist Church is on the National Registry
of Historic Places.
The churches unique features include a continuous flow
of rounded corners, arches, columns, windows and roof, all built with
no nails. The church is called Tyson Temple because no hammers
were heard during the construction just as none were heard in the construction
of the temple in Israel. The aluminum spire is a rounded, inverted cone
rising 65 feet, with a base eight feet in diameter. It was only the
second aluminum spire in the United States at the time of its construction.
The copper roof was also the second of its kind at the time of construction.
The unique beauty of the church includes a basement floor made of marble
and pillars framing the altar that duplicate those found at the Taj
Mahal. Among materials imported from around the world, church members
find themselves sitting right at home. Furnished with Oak from Ripley
County, Ind., the church pews were constructed and finished at Batesville,
The unmatched beauty of the church attracts many visitors. According
to church literature, the exterior was renovated in 1994 and 1995, and
the interior in 1997. Church officials say the building was restored
as near as possible to the original finish each time.
Listing on the National Register requires that a location meet certain
criteria, however, anyone may prepare a nomination to the National Register
if he feels the location may qualify. According to church officials,
church members Sally Stegner and the late Betty Furguson and Neva Hill
felt that their church was special enough to meet National Register
qualifications and completed the work and research required for the
The art deco design and high artistic values of the church were distinguishable
enough to qualify through the state of Indiana and the National Parks
Service for a listing. The result is recognition of the churchs
importance to the community, state, and nation.
Hill, who died this past fall, was well known throughout Ripley and
Jefferson counties, as well as nearby Trimble County, Ky., where at
one time she taught school and Sunday School at the Milton United Methodist
Church. Her funeral was helt at Tyson Temple, a place she held dear.
Tyson Temple United Methodist Church is located
at 324 W. Tyson St., Versailles, Ind. For more information, call (812)
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