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Christian Science Church, Eureka, CA

I seriously doubted this building exists or that it might be an example of the A-A, but there it was on a realty site. But its unorthodoxy, its architectural humility, is refreshing. So I thought to share with you a forthright piece of architecture as a counterpoint to our own age of sham and pretense. Happily, this building has survived and has been recently on the real estate market.

It’s also worth noting that the congregation continued the spirit of this 1914 building [at 1039 H Street] when the time came to replace it: take a look at the real estate listing for their second church home, also a design by architect Franklin Georgeson. They must have been satisfied with his services. Gives me hope to continue teaching young people on their way to a professional life.

So much for my editorial du jour.

Presbyterian Church, Albuquerque, NM

Newer states, states enjoying the often uncomfortable growth of territorial status at the turn of the century, were ripe for introduction of Akron-Auditorium types. Their earliest settlers often came from Midwestern and Great Plains states where the movement was already widespread and it may be that such a “new” idea coincided with their self image as Progressive additions to the national family. A church like this Presbyterian facility can be understood in that context.

First Presbyterian was constructed in 1905 (just seven years prior to statehood), a substantial testimony of their faith in the community’s growth. Despite its size and evident Akron Sunday school wing, however, the photograph makes the building seem flat, almost cardboard. Perhaps I see too many student projects fabricated on our department’s laser cutter; this appears to me to be more a model than an actual piece of architecture.

Evangelical United Brethren, Paoli, IN

The family tree of Methodism in the United States (and Canada, I suspect) is complex: 19th century fragmentation over social issues like slavery, and mid-20th century merging of several groups with remarkably similar names. The “United” in UMC comes from the Evangelical United Brethren, part of the German Reformed tradition. Many EUB buildings are hidden today behind the UMC moniker.

The Arts & Crafts character of this delightful EUB church in Paoli, Indiana puts a date of about 1910-1914. It was soon outgrown, however, and replaced with another non-A-A building.

G. W. Kramer times two

When George Washington Kramer died in 1938 he was ninety and had been retired from active practice for several years. Obituary notices are notoriously inaccurate — information often comes during the throes of grieving, provided by family members or friends not fully informed about the life of the deceased — and should be taken with that proverbial grain of salt. I call it “Recalling the best and forgetting the rest.” Kramer’s obit in the New York Times claims that he designed more than 2,200 churches during a fifty-year career. I’ve stated before my doubts about the veracity of that report. Regardless, I will admit that Kramer probably designed more churches than any other American architect of the 19th or 20th centuries.

It probably goes without saying that even half the number of designs claimed for (or by) him certainly includes multiple iterations of the same plan — with minor variants. As Frank Lloyd Wright famously said: “Pull down #53 and put a bay window in it for the lady.” So, when looking at a Kramer design, squint just a little, limit your perception of details, reduce the building to it basic massing and I suspect you’ll see more similarities and differences in any group of Kramer churches.

I was looking this evening at the UMC church in Derby, Connecticut, for two reasons: I find it an exceptionally well composed and substantially intact design, beautifully sited and admirably maintained. In addition, I had a call from our friend Richard Kenyon (an architect in Connecticut) who’s made arrangements to see the interior before an upcoming service. The congregation has both aged and shrunk which may put this on the state’s “endangered” list; it is certainly worthy of preservation and reuse, even for secular purposes.

Admiring its picturesque massing and profile, I was struck how similar it is to another Kramer church, also in Connecticut: the UMC in Watertown. The rhythm of elements in each is practically the same; it is only the size and materials that differ (masonry versus wood). I’m anxious to have Richard’s report on the state of the Derby interior and the intactness of its A-A features.

Baptist Church, Cleburne, TX

Even communities of moderate size in Texas are thick with Baptist churches; I count six on google.maps for Cleburne’s 29,000 citizens.

The East Henderson Street Baptist church cornerstone was laid in 1907 but it took nearly three years before holding their first service under that stilted dome. The columned street elevation sits on a tall plinth, giving the building a decided Roman quality. The building stood until 1960 but may have been abandoned for a newer facility some years prior.

United Brethren Church, Wabash, IN

A couple days ago one of my posts celebrated the visual similarity of two churches in northwestern Indiana: First U.B. (shown here) in Wabash and First Baptist in Warsaw. This Neo-Classical type with pedimented entries and other classical detail is not uncommon. Witness the Christian church in El Paso, Texas of about the same time (ca 1910-1915):

Personally, I prefer the greater authenticity of the Indiana pair (Warsaw and Wabash).

Seeking information on date and designer yielded some very interesting results. The architect in 1915 — that’s when the advertisement for bids was published and we can assume that construction soon followed — was a new name to me: Samuel M. Plato [1882–1957], an African-American architect of considerable repute in the two regions of his practice: Marion, Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky. I think we can safely attribute the Warsaw church to him as well.

Baptist Church, Ballston Spa, NY

Ballston Spa’s Baptist church was built during 1896-1897 and can be found at 202 Milton Avenue. The characteristic “Akron bustle” on the far left is a strong indication of a true A-A church within, though I haven’t located interior photographs.

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