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Park Church, Elmira, NY

November 5, 2015


Not every church in this study is Akron-Auditorium. Some have only one component of the A-A type. Some are of interest for other reasons. Consider Park Church in Elmira, NY, designed in 1874-1876 by Horatio Nelson White for Thomas Kennicott Beecher.

Park Church (which was and continues to be Congregational/UCC) was guided by Thomas Kennicott Beecher, a child of Lyman Beecher and younger brother of Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Of a decidedly liberal persuasion, T. K. Beecher built a church like few others in the years immediately following the Civil War. Narrow and a full block in length, Park Church strung out its elements like boxcars in a railroad train: auditorium/sanctuary; Sunday School; and social hall. Mark Twain attended it and wrote about its innovations. I include it in this study because Park may be the earliest example of what would, by the end of the century, be called an “Institutional Church,” a full service institution operational as close to 24/7 as possible and providing a wide range of social service resources to its members and, frankly, any else in need. T. K. Beecher was a true believer in the Social Gospel that drove much of the interest in the Akron-Auditorium and its big brother the Institutional Church.

Park Church Elmira

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