The Disciples of Christ presence in North Tonawanda began in 1888 with the North Christian Church, which soon changed its name to Payne Avenue Church of Christ. By 1901, Payne Avenue Church of Christ had split and a second group had formed, the Sunday School Mission, which changed it's name to Central Church of Christ but soon came to be known as the Tabernacle. In 1920, following the death of George Rand, Sr. (and the end of the division with B. L. Rand), a movement was floated to merge the two Disciples churches into one.
Discussions were held between the leaders of the Tabernacle and Payne Avenue Church of Christ. The congregations voted to build a new church with a new name. In November 1923, both of the old congregations dissolved and they became, together, The Church of Christ of North Tonawanda. The newly merged congregation purchased the lot at the corner of Payne Avenue and Wheatfield Street for the new church. The cost of the building lot was $5,700.
When this location was chosen, this was the area of North Tonawanda where new growth was happening. The new high school was to be erected just three blocks north. (The old school, most recently named George Lowry Middle School, closed in June 2004. George Lowry was a long-time member of Payne Avenue Christian Church and a principal at the school.) The empty fields surrounding the new high school were soon to be filled with new houses. Although the two Disciples churches had merged, they did not worship together as one. Services continued to be held at both locations.
Ground was broken for the new church home at the corner of Payne Avenue and Wheatfield Street on June 28, 1927. The original gift from the Rand children had grown to $70,000. The design of this building was chosen by George Rand, Jr. This building is a copy of an English chapel that Mr. Rand had discovered during one of his European holidays.
The Tabernacle building was sold. When it came time to sell the Payne Avenue Church of Christ building at the corner of Christiana Street, the members of that congregation balked. They chose instead to leave the merged church. And so, while this building was under construction, half of the congregation walked out. The merger was dead. The remaining members from the Tabernacle, with $70,000 in the bank decided to continue with the new building. Although the cost of the new building was over $151,000, times were good, business was booming, and the thought was that the smaller congregation could easily handle the debt.
After the walls of the sanctuary were constructed, it was decided a pipe organ was needed. The Wurlitzer Company was commissioned to build a pipe organ for the church. The cost of the organ was $5,245. However, there was no room in the design of the sanctuary for the organ. So, the architect had to redesign the front of the church to house the organ.
The dedication of this building was on April 15, 1928. It was a most modern facility. It even had one electrical outlet in every room! Within a few months, the stock market crashed, the nation fell into an economic depression, and this congregation was saddled with an enormous debt it could not meet. Struggling to meet its mortgage payments, other functions of the church suffered. During its early years, this building was heated only on Sunday mornings. Although the cornerstone of this building says it is the Church of Christ, the congregation changed its name back to Central Church of Christ.
In 1936 the Rand family paid off the remaining mortgage through a gift of $61,000. They also saw to it that the church parsonage was free of debt. Through the years North Tonawanda had two Disciples of Christ congregations, both on Payne Avenue, five blocks from each other: Payne Avenue Church of Christ (Christiana Street) and Central Church of Christ (Wheatfield Street). Both were started and supported by different members of the powerful and wealthy Rand family.