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Christian Church, Fulton, MO

July 28, 2017

Fifty years ago I went to Fulton, Missouri, home of Westminster College, to see a church by English architect Sir Christopher Wren. Yes, there is a Wren church in the heartland of North America. I was still an undergraduate student in architecture and not yet enamored of the Akron Plan.

So I might have paid little attention to the Christian church (i.e., Disciples of Christ), still standing resolutely at the corner of Seventh and Court streets. If someone had mentioned the name of its architect, however, I would have expressed considerable interest, for two reasons: 1) it was designed by Dallas architect James Edward Flanders, who seemed well outside his “market area”, and 2) Flanders’  designs in Texas and Oklahoma are primarily in the “Prairie Style”, incorporating aspects of both Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan. Those fifty years have mellowed me and today I can muster considerable enthusiasm for the Beaux Arts style he employed here.

I just looked at First Christian on google.maps and was surprised at the difference in scale between the contemporary image on my computer screen and the black-and-white postcard image I’m posting here. Perhaps it’s that puny car at the curb that makes the building seem not just big but downright colossal.

Flanders was, by the way, strongly inclined toward the Akron-Auditorium or Combination plan, using it extensively for his predominantly Methodist clientele. For two excellent interior view (and an admirable website devoted to JEF by a descendant), go here.And should this project eventually yield a monograph, J. E. Flanders will figure prominently in it, as will this iconic example of his late work. He died in 1928 at nearly the age of eighty.

PS: For comparison, the Methodist church at Chickasha, Oklahoma exemplifies his “Prairie School” idiom. If you squint, the massing of each building is nearly interchangeable.


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