The two-story brick building was erected in 1856. Under Rev. Beale a parsonage was built on Lincoln Street behind the Main Street Church for $4,000.
In 1889 the church had much to overcome. As we all know, on May 31, 1889, Johnstown was flooded. Johnstown was used to being flooded quite often every spring. However, this time was very different. Swollen streams, two days of rain and a very weak dam changed the lives of all those associated with Johnstown forever. During the flood, Dr. Beale, his wife, 2 sons and a daughter were virtually trapped in the third floor of the Lincoln Street manse, located directly behind the church. Mr. Beale thought only of saving the old family Bible and his daughter took the canary in its cage. The family lost everything else. The rushing water made the frame of the manse creak as those inside watched friends and parishioners swept away by the water. The Beale family was helped through a window and over the roof into Alma Hall. The manse later collapsed under the pressure of the water that night. The church itself was deluged 3 feet above the pews and the basement was filled with mud.
Clara Barton requested that the church be used as a morgue. Planks were placed over the pews and the dead bodies were laid there so that they could be viewed by those searching for loved ones. This did not go over well with the congregation. Rev. Beale kept a book where he recorded names of identified flow victims and described, as best as possible, unidentified bodies or body parts. Sometimes a body wore only a wedding ring; other times, the minister sketched the pattern of clothing found on a nameless victim. This grim task involved stripping, washing and identifying corpses, including members of the minister’s own congregation.
The flood’s aftermath strained the minister’s already tense relationship with one of his elders, John Fulton. Fulton was angry that Beale turned the church into a morgue. On June 13, 1889, the state Board of Health, fearing an epidemic, urged Johnstown residents to leave town. An exhausted Rev. Beale visited his mother in central Pennsylvania and also spent time in Baltimore.
When the minister returned a few months later in September, Fulton accused him of abandoning the congregation to recuperate and write his flood memoir. In December 1889, members of the First Presbyterian Church held meetings with the congregation debating on whether to remove Rev. Beale as a pastor. After two meetings, it was decided that Beale would be retained
The following is a direct quote from Rev. Beale: “Regard for the dead and the living required us to
suppress our sentiments and yield for a time to what seemed to us a religious duty. We did what we had a right to suppose the Master of Faith would have done if he had personally been present.”
Despite the humanitarian work of the gallant minister, he found it hard to change the opinions of his congregation of broken hearts, mixed feelings and factions. Despite the help and contributions from many people, the church was left helpless and destitute. Dr. Beale, after most trying and bitter experiences, resigned in 1890.
The building was sold in 1911 for $125,000. This was a profit of $124,600.00. Yes, the original price of the ground was $400.00.
In 1989, the 100th anniversary of the Great Flood, a theater on Main Street, the Embassy, was to be torn down. When this happened, remains of the church were found inside. The theater was built around the church. The seating for the theater was where the pews had been and the screen was where the pulpit and choir loft had been. In the building, the old church is still visible. The stained glass windows are visible as soon as you enter the front of the new building.