Temple United Methodist Church is in the news for its special
Seven facilities across Indiana were recently awarded for their
architectural style and design during the annual American Institute
of Architects (AIA) Indiana Design Awards. The architectural
firm of Odle, McQuire and Shook received a special 25-year award
for its recent renovation work at Tyson Temple, an iconic Art
Deco church located in Versailles.
The exquisite building was originally designed by Olde, McQuire
and Shook of Indianapolis, but was filled with ideas that James
Tyson brought back from his many travels around the world.
According to the information published on the original pamphlet
from the churchs dedication service in May of 1937, Tyson
Temple was designed and built during the Great Depression.
History files from the church reveal further details as to just
what a phenomenon this church building really is. The building
itself is a continuous flow of rounded corners, arches,
columns, windows and roof.
The actual contractor was Bruns and Gutzwiller of Batesville
with the cost being $150,000. What makes this building so unique
is that there are no nails in the building; it was constructed
of stone, concrete, steel, terra cotta, glazed and glass brick;
with all wood eliminated except for the furnishings.
It is called Tyson Temple because hammers were not heard in
its construction just as Israel built its first temple. The
spire is a rounded inverted cone of open-work cast aluminum.
It is 65 feet high and 8 feet in diameter at its base. The polished
aluminum cross on its top is about 100 feet off the ground.
At the time of construction, there was only one other spire
of its kind in the United States. Made of copper, the roof was
the second one of its kind in the United States. The roof was
replaced once time back in the 1970s. The inside doors
are made of bronze and are patterned from the doors of a ship.
The front windows were originally glass blocks and the windows
in the sanctuary were imported from England.
Terra cotta for the building was imported from Italy. The unusual
handrail appears at a church in Rheims, France. In the vestibule
is a stone that has Eliza Adams Tyson on it in memory
of James Tysons mother, in whose memory the entire building
was erected. The unusual ceiling in the sanctuary is the blue
of a cloudless sky. The stars are placed to form the constellations
as they appeared in the heavens the night his mother died. The
ceiling above the choir loft has gold leaf in the dome and silver
leaf on the pillars. They were handmade and imported from Germany.
The oak pews, however, came from timber in Ripley County. The
basement floor is made of Terrazzo marble. There is a Byzantine
Tunnel connecting the church and the parsonage. Framing the
altar are pillars that duplicate those in the Taj Mahal.
Over time there have been several renovations. Extensive exterior
renovations took place in 1994 and 1995. The interior was restored
as near as possible to its original in 1997. The exterior was
renovated again in 2004 and 2005 when the brick and terra cotta
According to the American Institute of Architect and Laura Musall
of Indianapolis, This Tyson Temple project exhibits exceptional
Art Deco details. Its very iconic. The architect uses
form and pared-down modern details to create a memorable monument
for Versailles. It is a beautiful building lovingly cared for.
James Tyson himself had a great fondness for Versailles, where
he was born. In the community, he was known with affection as
Uncle Jim. He was an interesting man who was well-read
(Tyson Library still has his collection of books that he prized
most) and a world traveler, hence the extra touches imported
from other countries for the church building. He was an intelligent
man who had big ideas that produced a large fortune for him.
According to Dorothy Thompson Craig, who along with her family
knew him well, he was the brains and the idea
man behind the well-known Walgreen Drugstores. Charles
Walgreen was the man with the money to make Uncle Jim's
idea work. Walgreen Drugstores are alive and well yet today.
The investment of shares of Walgreen stock by Tyson, to be administered
by the Tyson United Methodist Church trustees, continues to
be a blessing to the Versailles community.
According to Craig, Tyson never owned a car and never drove
one. He preferred to walk wherever he went. He actually used
to deliver products from the Walgreen Store in Chicago, where
he lived, riding a bicycle.
When he traveled, he carried a suitcase tied with an old belt.
He preferred gray shirts to white ones and all of them had to
When Tyson would come back to visit Versailles, he would often
stay at the home of Charles and Ida Thompson, Craig's grandparents.
Craig said he was generous. She understood this generosity of
his even as a child. Each time Tyson or Uncle Jim
visited her family, he brought a wonderful box of chocolates
for her and a separate one for her sister.
Tyson died November 1, 1946, in Chicago at the age of 85 and
is buried in the Cliff Hill Cemetery, Versailles. He left behind
an endearing legacy in the beauty of a building called Tyson
Temple that has stood the test of time.
He also left behind the Tyson Fund that has changed the landscape
of Versailles. While he cared more about simple things - things
his money could not buy, he realized the importance of forward
thinking in the form of a trust.
The Tyson Temple is listed on the National Register of Historic
Places and continues to be a drawing card for visitors to come
to Versailles to see the unique one-of-a-kind structure.