Sometime in the early 1920's, Reverend Clinton Wunder, Pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Rochester, NY, convinced his congregation to build the Temple Building. The parish had outgrown their existing church. Rev. Wunder thought that a nine-story building would become an economic engine for the Church's mission. Eventually the plans changed to a fourteen-story building. Many in the congregation thought that it was unwise to build a fourteen-story "Skyscraper Church."
Rev. Wunder prevailed however, and a building committee, headed by William Hartman was established. Originally the committee decided to build a combined church and hotel. They changed direction though and decided a combination church and office building would be better suited for the needs of the church and also more profitable. Mr. Hartman died suddenly in July 1923, but not before every penny of the estimated $1,900,000 needed for construction had been raised to build the Temple Building. The existing church was quickly demolished and construction began sometime in 1924. The congregation would temporarily worship in the old Lyceum Theater. Arthur Castle, the new chairman of the building committee was determined to finish construction within one year, and very nearly succeeded. Despite many trying circumstances, the new Temple Building was dedicated on September 7, 1925.
During the early years of its use, the building’s splendid auditorium was frequently filled to capacity, and it was not uncommon to turn folks away. Rev. Wunder had strong oratorical skills and unusual advertising and promotional abilities. Each year more than 100,000 people would walk through the Temple doors to attend worship services or an occasional debate. The Church prospered and the Temple Building became one of Rochester's landmark destinations.
In 1926, the Rev. Clinton Wunder invited Clarence Darrow to Rochester for a debate at the Temple Building with Rev. Wunder on the topic "Has Life A Purpose?" Darrow's argument was based on his bold agnostic theories.
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