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George Washington Kramer

January 25, 2017


Ohio architect George W. Kramer [1848-1938] was involved with the first Akron Plan Sunday School building, not surprisingly, at Akron, Ohio. Jacob Snyder, the original architect who worked with industrialist Lewis Miller and Methodist clergyman Rev John Heyl Vincent, had become incapacitated and Kramer stepped in to bring the project to completion. I don’t know how much of the Akron idea — as architecture, rather than educational theory or method — had been developed at the time of Snyder’s departure. Kramer certainly took as much credit as possible and built a reputation as a church designer on the basis of his connection.

At the other end of his life, a few years before his death in 1938, Kramer reflected on his long and productive career. He produced a scrapbook purporting to list all the churches he’d designed. I’ve seen the scrapbook but didn’t do a tally. Kramer’s obituary, however, made the unsubstantiated claim that he has designed more than 2,200 churches! Yes, you read that right.

I’ve mentioned this scrapbook before and qualified its claim for two reasons:

  1. Each state was inventoried separately, with an alphabetical list of cities where his designs had been built. Some of them were illustrated with thumbnail drawings, yet many of those perspective drawings were reproduced again and again throughout the inventory. It is certainly possible that a particular scheme had been built six or eight times, but it does call his recollection into question.
  2. If North Dakota is representative, his memory was more than faulty: eight church commissions were claimed across the state but I can tell you from forty-five years’ residency here, during which I’ve visited most of its communities, none of those commissions were built. Zero out of eight.

Which brings me to the image above: it comes from flickr or tumblr or pinterest and is captioned there as a Kramer design. But the photographer failed to identify where it is. Nor did he/she provide an email for me to ask. Ah, well.

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