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Methodist Episcopal Church, Sabetha, KS

January 20, 2016

KSsabethaME

The M.E. church in Sabetha, Kansas has a special place in my heart. As an undergraduate at the University of Oklahoma in the 1960s, I researched the career of William A. Wells, an architect who had practiced in Oklahoma City, producing some of the state’s best examples of work inspired by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd — mostly Sullivan. Wells was a Sabetha native, though I doubted that little, if any, of his work might be found there. It was simply comforting to be in a place he had known. The Sunday morning that I visited, I parked my VW bug beside this church and noted the rather odd massing of its forms; it brought to mind the phrase “Akron Plan” that Fred Shellabarger had mentioned in his architectural history courses. “Note to self,” I said, “look into this funny church.”

The nearly book-matched street elevations; the bulbous chancel (I presumed; services were over and the church was already locked); the two-stage lantern above the sanctuary/auditorium; all of these features spoke to me of something strange going on inside. I was, after all, a product of Late Modernism and the notion that “form follows function.” Yet, despite all this interest and all these years later, I still don’t know who the architect at Sabetha might have been.

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