Pictured is the old Billy Sunday Tabernacle. Photo provided by Al Disbro.
Pictured is the old Billy Sunday Tabernacle. Photo provided by Al Disbro.
WINONA LAKE - The new Miller Sunset Pavilion is designed to resemble the original Tabernacle and is in the same location.

For years, people have asked for a place to skate in the county. Winona is the most natural location. In the winter, residents can enjoy it and it will be popular for a lot of visitors as well as Grace College students.

The Tabernacle was started in 1920 and completed in 1921, 100 years ago. It had a seating capacity of 7,500. Several Tabernacles were built across the United States as temporary buildings for Billy Sunday, then taken down after Sunday left. This one stayed because Sunday lived here. The Tabernacle was the center pierce of the world’s largest Bible conference. The conferences brought in 60,000 visitors a year.

Billy Graham spoke in the Tabernacle on the Youth For Christ 25th Anniversary; it was packed. As did Paul Harvey many years later. The Gaithers performed in the Tabernacle and again filled the building, with overflow of people standing outside watching. Other well-known people that performed in the Tabernacle at that time were Will Rogers, Helen Keller, Admiral Richard Byrd, James Whitcomb Riley and John Philip Susa.

The Tabernacle was used for Warsaw Community High School and Grace College graduations until it was taken down.

Leading organizations such as Moody Institute, Youth For Christ, Oriental Missionary Society Bible Conference with nationally known speakers were here.

Twentysome years ago, when Billy Graham was in his early 80s, I met his son Franklin Graham. I said, “You know, your dad got his start in Winona Lake.” Franklin said, “Indeed he did.”

I told him that Winona Lake has had a rebirth and he should bring his dad back to see it. Unfortunately, Billy was not physically able to return.

As you can see there is a long and devout history at the Tabernacle. I am happy to see this continue with a new and updated pavilion.