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Third Church of Christ, Scientist, Minneapolis, MN

Progressive examples of A-A churches are far fewer than I’d have imagined. And I’m uncertain whether to include this unbuilt design by Purcell & Elmslie. Third Church of Christ, Scientist has the requisite auditorium sanctuary, a 180° radial space with entry through vomitoria-like access points such as one would find in a stadium; see St Paul’s Methodist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for a similar worship space. Tucked behind and beneath this are a number of Sunday school rooms without the requisite assembly area adjacent, so it has elements of the A-A without actually functioning that way.

It’s regrettable that this project from the ‘teens was unexecuted. One wonders why. I’m also curious why spell-checking programs don’t like words like unbuilt, vomitoria, and unexecuted.

Temple Baptist Church, Detroit, MI

Major “rust belt” cities—Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee—are familiar to me. I was born there; their fabric may be threadbare but it is comfortable. At the outset of this project I was disappointed to have found so few A-A examples, possibly because of the high Roman Catholic population, but in hindsight it now seems more likely that the volatility of neighborhoods, their shifting populations, and the general economic decline didn’t serve these congregations well.

I stumbled across this spectacular example of what I believe was a classic C-1 type and searched long and hard for its location in Detroit. There are several on-line threads about the history of the congregation—which had its own sort of volatility—and one of the contributors pinpointed the site at Fourteenth and Marquette on Detroit’s inner west side. From the air the plan of the building is still apparent but you’d be hard-pressed to recognize it from the street. These two views are taken from similar vantage points!

The architect is reputed to have been J. Will Wilson in 1920.

The eyes of others…

“Seeing through the eyes of others” by C.S. Lewis

“Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realise the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison.

“My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through the eyes of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. I regret that the brutes cannot write books. Very gladly would I learn what face things present to a mouse or a bee; more gladly still would I perceive the olfactory world charges with all the information and emotion it carries for a dog…

“In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myraid eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”

—C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961/1992), 140-141.

And then there is another point of view:

“You don’t have to see through the eyes of others, hold onto yours, stand on your own judgment, you know what is, is—say it aloud, like the holiest of prayers, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

—Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, Part 3, Ch. 4.

But I think I’ll go with Option “A”.

Methodist Episcopal Church, Ambridge, PA

First Presbyterian Church Ambridge, PA / J. C. Fulton, architect

In a database now exceeding five thousand, there are very, very few that evidence phases in their construction. The Methodist Episcopal church in Ambridge, Pennsylvania is one of them.

Built circa 1908-1909 from plans by architect J. C. Fulton — who was prolific, by the way —  the thrift Methodists elected to build the Sunday school first and use it as a worship space until they could afford the auditorium-sanctuary. If you were to judge the building by this postcard alone (above), it would attract your attention but little else. Other postcards have come to light, however, that tell this more interesting tale: the Sunday school, peaking out at the far left (above) preceded the church by I know not how many years. Witness the postcard below:

Methodist Episcopal Church, Ambridge, PA / J. C. Fulton, architect / Phase 1 (Sunday School)


Methodist Episcopal Church, Forty Fort, PA

Entry towers that straddle the likely fault line between an auditorium and its Sunday school are a reliable indicator for an A-1 plan type. Information on the history of this church in sketchy; a 1920 periodical announces the intent to build but mentions no architect. Despite that, the building is a handsome design in what appears to be mint exterior condition.

Forty Fort also has a Presbyterian church—a mid-century modern building—which from the air appears to have a 180° Sunday school at the rear.

Fourth Baptist Church, Chicago, IL

Chicago’s Fourth Baptist church stood at the southwest corner of Ashland and Monroe streets from its dedication in 1889 until the 1920s when it was demolished to make way for a Wieboldt’s Department store. By that time, the residential character of the West Side had changed dramatically; even the department store has subsequently disappeared.

On-line sources credit the design to both August Fiedler and Charles F. Whittlesey. The latter is far better known for his work with the Santa Fe Railway and at Grand Canyon. A published plan, however, demonstrates this was a C-2, thanks in part to and angle at the west end of the property where Ogden Avenue passes on its way southwest.

Methodist Episcopal Church, Monte Vista, CO

The UMC church at 215 Washington Street, Monte Vista, Colorado is fairly Progressive in style, if not actually Prairie School. It was built in 1922, toward the end of the Akron phenomenon. From these two interiors, the A-A characteristics are clear. Charles J. Anderson¹ of Alamosa designed the building. A 1922 business directory for Colorado lists him as a general contractor and designer, though he must have had considerable exposure to the Progressive movement.

UMC, Monte Vista, CO / C. J. Anderson, designer (1922) / ground floor plan from the NR nomination


Our friend CO architect Belinda Zink brought the church to my attention.

¹Genealogical sources are sketchy on Anderson; Charles J. Anderson is an exceptionally common name. He was born in Illinois to emigrant Swedish parents. I find someone with that name in Chicago directories as a mason. The 1920 US Census places him in Alamosa, aged 51, married and with two children who were engaged in the contracting business with him. He died in 1943 and is buried at Fort Collins, CO.