Skip to content

Tuxedo Park Christian Church, Webster Groves, MO

Our roving reporter Richard Kenyon sent a batch of his recent on-line discoveries, including this charming building. It stands at the corner of Bompart Avenue and Tuxedo Blvd.

A little more sleuthing reveals that it was the Tuxedo Park Christian Church and constructed in two phases (1895 and 1908), though its not clear which of the three parts are associated with those dates. The Dutch Colonial style has been exceedingly rare in this study, so it’s interesting for that aspect alone. The possible “Akron” component is that quarter circular segment you can just see to the right of the main entrance.

Richard located the building on a site used to market churches that have closed and are for sale. Apparently this one has become a single-family home.

MOwebstergrovesXtian6.jpg

Radial (Radical!) Precedent

There are a wide variety of radial structures similar in form to the original Akron Plan Sunday school built in Akron, Ohio—the collaboration among Lewis Miller (retired industrialist and Sunday school leader), Rev John Heyl Vincent (Methodist minister and eventual bishop) and their architects, Jacob Snyder and his successor G. W. Kramer. Radiating forms were quite common during the 19th century, for industrial, agricultural, and cultural purposes, and would have been familiar “background noise” as the Akron idea was conceived.

At the vernacular end of the spectrum (building generally without known designers and widely dispersed throughout the cultural landscape) would have been the dairy barn. Dairying operations evolved a radial form for efficiency in both feeding and milking, and took both round and polygonal forms. Perhaps the most famous round barn was erected by the Shakers of Hancock, Massachusetts.

Round Barn, Hancock, MA (built 1826)

The haymow was located above the cattle; silage at the center doubled as the principal roof structure.

Similar for its radial distribution system, the 19th century railroad roundhouse focussed on the turntable, in this case distributing the locomotives to their respective stalls. Whether “O” or “C”-shaped and open at the center or completely enclosed, this and the dairy barn were models of structural and operational efficiency.

This British railway roundhouse is totally enclosed. Built for the London & Birmingham Railway, this was built in 1847.

A 1913 Canadian National roundhouse at Hanna, AB.

Said to be (or have been) in Chicago, I have no idea where it was located.

Other institutional applications for found for radial configurations, most of them based on surveillance: the hospital and its cousin the mental hospital, as well as the prison.

Panopticon, design for a prison by Jeremy Bentham (1791).

And then there is the library, whose development is nearly parallel and contemporary with the Akron idea. The British Museum Reading Room (opened 1847) and the public library at Vyborg/Viipuri (1927-1935) each employ radial sightlines from a central librarian’s station as the organizing principle.

Former British Museum Reading Room (opened 1847), Sidney Smirke, architect

Public Library, Viipuri, Finland (previously Vyborg, Russia) (built 1927-1935), Alvar Aalto, architect

I suspect similar polygonal or radial structure from the mid-19th century will suggest other potential sources of influence for what the Miller-Vincent-Snyder-Kramer team conceived.

A slow day…

A slow day at the office:

M.E. Church, Clayton, NM

M.E. Church, Santa Ana, TX

M.E. Church, Santa Ana, TX

M.E. Church, Big Springs, NE

M.E. Church, Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY

M.E. Church, Antrim, NH

M.E. Church, Albion, PA

M.E. Church, Sargent, NE

John Parks Almand (1885-1969)

Methodist Episcopal Church, Fordyce, AR/ John Parks Almand, architect (1925)

Methodist Episcopal Church, Portland, AR/ John Parks Almand, architect

The Encyclopedia of Arkansas has much to say about architect John Parks Almand, including his education at Columbia University. Richard Kenyon discovered his Methodist church at Portland and that one led to the church at Fordyce—two of more than fifty Arkansas churches he designed. Each of these is unusual, possibly even innovative, but neither seems to be an obvious example of the A-A idea. So I include them here as examples of independent thinking.

Congregational Church, Steger, IL

I cannot quite recall how I found this church. Might have been a postcard, but if it was I can no longer locate the card. At any rate our roving reporter Richard Kenyon drove past it a few years ago and took some photos. The building remained a mystery for a few years.

This was built as a Congregational church (UCC) but is now an evangelical-pentecostal congregation that hasn’t responded to questions about their building. Another source confirms that the architect was none other than Emery Stanford Hall, Chicago architect and first secretary of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. Anyone in the licensing process will know NCARB. Views from other directions and from the air don’t help understanding its shape: From Steger Boulevard, this is clearly an Akron Sunday school, but there is no auditorium. I had thought this could have been a staged project, with the S.S. built first, to be followed by the auditorium. But the detailing on the opposite side (from this view) has a permanent look about it. So I’m not sure. At any rate it is interesting.

The church website does include a couple interior views of interest.

Hall’s other projects—those that I know—are of a generally Arts & Crafts character, which seems to be true here as well: shaggy, shale-cut brick, interesting brick coursing, low arches, curious bracketed roofs. I like it, completed or not.

Just as a curious footnote: Emery Stanford Hall’s grand-daughter is none other than Raquel Welch. I kid you not.

On the road…

Grand Island, NE

Colorado Springs, CO

Onawa, IA

It’s not the Christian church in Keokuk that interests me. It’s the one in the background.

McAllen, TX

This Logansport, Indiana church is an unlikely A-A type. But I had to include it for the audacity of that front facade!

Ames, IA

Vinton, IA

Logansport, IN

Oconee, IL

Jacksboro, TX

Georgetown, TX

Fort Branch, IN (questionable)

Audobon, IA (probably)

Can’t quite read to location, but it’s the church on the right that interests me.

We’re in Chicago on a field trip, waiting for a blizzard in Minnesota to run its course. So I had some time to search the web for a few more prospects. Some of these churches definitely are; some probably not.

Two Presbyterian Churches

Yes, the details differ between these two Presbyterian churches, but luckily the photographer(s) chose similar points of view. So, am I imagining a connection between these two that is wishful thinking?