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Spot Check

The project progresses like the hands of a clock. A year or so ago, it seemed that we were achieving modest numbers—here in the blog and in the actual database that you can’t see at present—but the flow of new entries has slowed, making this as good a time as any to assess what we’ve achieved.

Today’s entry (a Methodist church in Newark, New Jersey) is #1,291. But the database itself sits this afternoon sits at 6,255 likely candidates for Akron–Auditorium or Combination Plan status. They range from the 1880s into the 1920s, by which time the Akron idea had become more habit than fad. And virtually every style from those decades is represented: from Ruskinian Gothic and Richardsonian Romanesque to Churrigueresque, Craftsman, and Prairie School. If I’ve made a contribution to awareness and understanding of the A-A phenomenon, it’s been the observation of pattern among so many diverse examples. Gather enough of anything and patterns will emerge, and emerge they did.

I noted this afternoon that there are several people following this blog. That’s gratifying. But—other than two visitors who’ve taken the time to say hello and even make contributions of ideas and information—it would be useful to learn why others have become followers. What meaning does the A-A have for you?

 

Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church, Newark, NJ

The lineage of Trinity M.E. in Newark is cumbersome and complicated, so I’ll simply say here that this is an A-A church of the C-1 type. The architect was likely Charles Granviille Jones of nearby Belleville.

Curiously, this church plays a role in two of my projects. But I’ll save an explanation for another time.

[#1291]

Christian Church, Enid, OK—times two

Though half of them have been replaced by newer and larger churches, Enid was once rich with A-A churches—or very good candidates for that status, but the documentation that would confirm my suspicions is sketchy. The “Foursquare” character of the city’s Christian church [Disciples of Christ] invites speculation about its interior organization. The two street facades aren’t quite book-matched, but the element that is most intriguing is on the far left side: barely peeking around that corner is the eave of a slightly sloped roof that could connote a Sunday school extension.

A short note—saying that plans were under consideration but not naming an architect—appeared in the 16 February 1916 issue of the Western Contractor, adding that it “will incl large Sunday school room”.

Now, having crafted a story based on this postcard image, I’m going to cast doubt on the entirety of it. Look at this image for Calvary Baptist church in Oklahoma City:

There are two answers: #1) the Enid postcard was incorrectly identified, or #2) an architect sold the same design to two different denominational clients in two cities. The OKC church was converted into law offices in 2013. The Waymarking site has this to say about the OKC church:

It was designed and built in 1922-1923 by Russell Benton Bingham (1880-1966), a graduate of the Tuskegee Institute in Architecture, and a member of the congregation, for a cost of $50,000. The style is Gothic Revival, with dark brick and lavishly decorated stone trim. It is primarily a square building, with a two-story sanctuary. Bi-level seating extends on three sides of the large room. All classrooms and offices are on the basement level. Beautiful stained glass windows are the focal point of the exterior. Many of the stained glass windows were destroyed during the Murrah Bombing in April of 1995, but have been replaced.

The building is also closely connected with the Civil Rights Movement.

So, now I’ll answer my own question. These are indeed two separate buildings and I say that for several reasons:

  1. Each building is situated on a street corner, but one of them is a “left hand” version, that is, it is on the left of the principle facade. The other is “right hand”; it is on the right of the main street elevation.
  2. Unless I’m misreading the lighting in each of this photographs, the facade of the OKC building is flatter, that is there is very little relief or three-dimensionality. Whereas, the Enid church appears to be more layered.
  3. A factor in that three-dimensionality at Enid is the contrasting white trim, which I’m guessing is glazed terra cotta. Oklahoma City, on the other hand, appears flat, that is, matt surfaced, less reflective (as glazed terra cotta would be) and the trim differs in detail. Notice, for example, the chevron or pennant-like elements in the small towers of the corner bays. Look also at the small niches between those chevrons: one is framed with trim; the other has only a stone sill.

My second suspicion appears to be correct: one design was built at two locations for two different denominational clients. Are they likely to have known about the replication: absolutely! One commission often begets another, as church building committees share their experiences with one another.

Alice Focht Mem’l M. E. Church, Birdsboro, PA

The Alice Focht Memorial M. E. church at Birdsboro was built about 1911-1912 and named for the wife of the building contractor; the architect got bupkis. The congregation held its last service in 2017 and the church is currently available for development for $199,000.

Third Church of Christ, Scientist, Portland, OR

Examples of A-A churches in Progressive styles from the early 20th century are infrequent, if not actually rare. William Gray Purcell of the Minneapolis-Chicago firm of Purcell & Elmslie (sometimes also with George Feick) were connected with at least two, perhaps because his wife Edna Purcell was herself a Christian Scientist. Their Minneapolis design for a Christian Science church remains unexecuted but the Third Church of Christ, Scientist in Portland, Oregon was at least half completed circa 1925-1926.

From these plans and sections, it seems the Sunday school was built first, in anticipation of the large auditorium sanctuary as phase two. In the plans they are shown back to back, unconnected by any sort of movable partition. So the F-1 model holds here.

The building now serves as the Miao Fa Temple.

[#1288]

 

Swedish Mission Church, Turlock, CA

This Swedish Mission church in Turlock must have been Lutheran and, if so, that would also make it a rare example of the A-A in that denomination — not to mention of the Mission Style.

[#1287]

St Luke’s Mem’l Lutheran Church, Pittsburgh, PA

The Project’s “roving reporter” Richard Kenyon has located a rare surviving (barely) Lutheran example of the A-A. St Luke’s Memorial Lutheran church, 2235 Federal Street Ext, is currently vacant and for sale as a commercial property. The real estate site offers several exterior and interior views that confirm it as a D-1 type.