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Fire Destroys Historic Royse City Methodist Church

Royse City Methodist Church

The town of Royse City in northeastern Texas lost one of its most historic buildings to fire on Tuesday, May 28 during a severe storm that was moving through the area. Royse City Methodist Church was a beloved fixture in the historic downtown and, for so many, it was a fundamental part of what made the small town so special. Longtime residents and new transplants alike loved the old yellow church, and it was always a joy to see when rounding the curve along Highway 66.

Royse City Methodist Church was originally known as Methodist Episcopal Church South, then First United Methodist Church of Royse City. It was not individually listed on the National Register, but its historic and architectural significance was denoted as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark (RTHL). While Texas has over 16,000 historic markers around the state, only around 3,800 of them have RTHL status.  The church itself dates to 1887 when the congregation met in a schoolhouse until land was purchased from the McCasland family a few years later. The building was completed in 1904.

James E. Flanders (1849-1948), one of Dallas’ earliest architects, was selected to design the new sanctuary. The Royse City church featured three prominent entry towers of mismatched heights, arched stained glass windows, and decorative wood shingles in the gables and tallest tower. Wide overhanging eaves gave the building a Prairie School-style appearance. Flanders designed other churches that closely resemble the Royse City church – especially the nearly identical First United Methodist Church in Marlin, still standing today, and Trinity Methodist Church in Dallas, completed the same year as the Royse City church and destroyed by fire in 1981. 

FUMC Royse City Fire

The official cause is still under investigation, but historic buildings are particularly vulnerable to fire from lightning and electrical malfunction. The loss of this church recalls another big loss in Texas to fire last year – that of the Wise County Heritage Museum. Losses such as these remind us why it is so important to document our historic properties. Documentation enables future historians, researchers, descendants, and others to continue learning from our shared past and ensures the information is not lost to time, and it can also aid in reconstruction if that possibility exists.

Thankfully, no one was injured in the fire, and firefighters were able to escape when the building began to collapse. According to a representative, the church’s historical records were spared since they were kept in an adjacent building that firefighters were able to save. Pastor Chris Everson says that while the building is no longer there, the church will continue. That is good news for its long-time members and the community that it has served so faithfully for the past 137 years. 

Main photo: The sanctuary of Royse City Methodist Church, photo courtesy of the church.