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The Periphery

June 4, 2017

Any body of work has its outliers, examples that don’t fit comfortably in the categories that give it structure, comprehension. The typology that gives structure to my understanding of the Akron-Auditorium — the six-by-three matrix of auditoria and Sunday schools — has evolved throughout the project and stabilized to the point that those outlying examples have begun to form categories of their own: 1) the “institutional church,” an expansion of the A-A including a full array of services appropriate to the Social Gospel, and 2) the “skyscraper” church, akin to the Institutional Church but with additional retail, rental and other functions peripheral to church operation.

I don’t know the full history of The Auditorium in Los Angeles (whether it was purpose-built or adapted)  but the First Baptist Church and Mizpah Hotel in Syracuse, NY is more easily told.

Church functions (auditorium, religious education, entertainment, offices and committee rooms) constitute the two ground floors (or three depending how you count them). The top three originally housed YMCA rooms connected with another building on an adjacent street. In the 1940, those floors became an independent hotel, later called “The Mizpah”, which came under church management in the 60s and eventually closed. The building was acquired by the city in 1998 and awaits a developer. Wrapping an auditorium with income-generating space isn’t a new idea, however: Chicago’s Auditorium lies hidden within a shell of hotel rooms and offices that today constitute Roosevelt University.

Occurring at the near end of the A-A phenomenon (1880–1920 in round numbers), this small but impressive group of buildings includes these six “skyscraper” schemes:

  • 1906–Temple Baptist Church, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1914–First Baptist Church and Mizpah Hotel, Syracuse, NY
  • 1917–Cathedral Temple for Immanuel Baptist Church, Chicago, IL (Emery Stanford Hall, architect)
  • 1922–Protestant Episcopal Cathedral for Chicago, IL (Alfred Granger, architect)
  • 1923–Broadway Temple United Methodist Church, New York, NY
  • 1924–Chicago Temple, First UMC, Chicago, IL (Holabird & Roche, architects)

As a Chicagoan, I take great pride in claiming three for my hometown. But is it coincidence that three of these projects were for Baptist clients?

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