The origins of the founding of Franklin Circle Christian Church, located at 1688 Fulton Road, lie in America's Second Great Awakening, an early nineteenth century movement which was characterized by a resurgence in religious enthusiasm and a diversification in Christian religious groups. Northeastern Ohio became a center of this new religious fervor and home to a number of new Christian religious groups, including the Mormons (Kirtland), the Shakers (Warrensville Township), and the Amish (Holmes County). In this era, as Cleveland State University history professor David Goldberg teaches, Ohio beckoned to religious enthusiasts much like a century or so later California would beckon to altruistic baby boomers.
The Disciples of Christ, which founded Franklin Circle Christian Church in 1842, was another new Christian group that grew out of the Second Great Awakening and found fertile ground for its new religion in northeastern Ohio. The Disciples of Christ were adherents to the religious philosophy of Thomas and Alexander Campbell, father and son ministers, who urged Christians to put aside the doctrinal differences that divided different sects and return to the principles of the primitive Christian Church. In 1848, the parish built its first permanent church on Franklin Circle. It was large and cavernous and was known to its parishioners as "God's Barn." Three decades later, the parish hired the noted Cleveland architectural firm of Cudell and Richardson to design a new church on Franklin Circle--on a parcel of land just south of "God's Barn." The new church was built in the years 1874-1875 and has become one of the oldest and best known landmarks on the near west side of Cleveland.
Franklin Circle Christian Church and the Disciples of Christ have a long history of promoting education and engaging in social activism in northeastern Ohio. In 1850, the Disciples of Christ founded the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, which later became known as Hiram College. Future United States President James A. Garfield was a student at the new college in the early 1850s and returned to it in 1858 to become President of the College. In 1857, Garfield also served as pastor at Franklin Circle Christian Church. The Church's members also included fervent supporters of the nineteenth century Temperance and Prohibition movements. Long time parishioner Abraham Teachout, a lumber merchant who lived on Franklin Avenue, was the church's Sunday School Superintendent for 25 years in the late nineteenth century. In 1884, he ran for Congress on the Prohibition ticket and remained a fervent Prohibitionist until his death in 1912.
Franklin Circle Christian Church today continues to engage in educational programs and social activism that serve a constituency very different from the Franklin Avenue neighborhood of the nineteenth century. Today, the Franklin Avenue neighborhood is home to many working class and immigrant families. The Church's outreach programs minister to the needs of this new community.