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About this blog and its author

RHLMR

With few exceptions, the history of religious architecture in North America falls in two broad categories: 1) the liturgical type, longitudinal and aligned on a ceremonial axis of circulation (i.e., procession) from entry to altar, and 2) the New England “meeting house” type with the congregation in a compact block for proximity to the spoken word. Until the blurring of such distinctions in recent years, one was for performance, the other for preaching. To someone raised in the Christian tradition as I was (a Protestant), that assessment may seem harsh. But I now stand outside the beliefs of my youth and have a different, if no more objective view. That being said, this blog is devoted to a phenomenon in American religious architecture that has received remarkably little attention by architectural historians (for which, read art historians) for reasons that I hope to explore along with the topic itself.

The Akron-Auditorium plan was coincident with the Social Gospel, a phenomenon among mainstream Protestants which aligned humankind with Jesus, horizontally as our brother, rather than vertically as part of the Trinitarian conception of the supreme being. Hindsight tells me now that my fascination with the A-A plan derives from this almost humanist understanding of religion. There was a time when religion in the United States was broad, inclusive and concerned with improving the human condition. That was the religion of my youth; the religion that helped shape the agnostic I’ve become.

For the time being, you should know that I am happily among the un-churched, yet intensely interested in religion and its architectural consequences.

Incidentally, the six images above are from a group of nine watercolor, gouache and colored pencil shards of me, created by Jonathan Taylor Rutter because I asked him.

9 Comments
  1. Mark Latus permalink

    Found your blog yesterday when googling for photos of an “A-A” plan church in Virden, IL. It is fascinating, as are the buildings you show and write about. Where will I find your “A-A” plan type matrix? I would very much like to see this.
    Thank you.
    Mark Latus
    Milwaukee, WI

  2. Richard Cawthon permalink

    I was interested to discover your blog today. I’m very surprised I haven’t stumbled across it before, considering all the research I do on-line. I am an architectural historian with a particular interest in American religious architecture. I wrote the text for the book “Historic Churches of Mississippi” (2007) and was the author of “Lost Churches of Mississippi” (2010).
    Are you acquainted with the book “When Church Became Theatre” (2002, 2005) by Jeanne Halgren Kilde? It is a very informative book that looks at the origins of the auditorium-plan church from the perspective of social history. I posted a review of that book on Amazon.
    Richard Cawthon
    Jackson, Mississippi
    August 13, 2015

  3. Delighted to find your blog today and its immense list of fabulous and neglected church architecture. I found it from googling the First Baptist Church in Elmira NY which I discovered recently on a trip: a colossal church which is sadly now closed (your entry is out of date on that).
    My interest is as a practicing church designer; we’ve recently completed two new amphitheatre/auditorium churches without knowing much about the history of this type – so I’m now catching up.
    Incidentally, I can point you to another fine example in Manhattan which doesn’t seem to be on your list – West End Presbyterian Church at Amsterdam Avenue and 105th St by Henry S. Kliburn of 1891. This is a peach. It may be in your D category although the corner entry then leads into the side of an amphitheatre.
    Can you point out where in your website you describe your different categories?
    Thanks, Timothy Eckersley

  4. Perry Casalino permalink

    Hi, I have access to hundreds of photographs of midwestern churches if you are interested in some scans.

  5. David White permalink

    Enjoyed your blog. Here is an A/A church in Melbourne Australia. Joseph Reed is most remembered for introducing polychrome brickwork in Melbourne. Judging from the plan he was aware of what was happening in the U.S. https://urban.melbourne/forum/st-michael%E2%80%99s-uniting-church

    • Hello, Mr White:
      Some years ago I wrote to several of your state historical agencies, inquiring if they recognized the phrase “Akron Plan” and was consistently told no, they weren’t. Yet I was convinced that it spread beyond the U.S. and Canada, especially where Methodists were present in large numbers. So, thanks very much for allowing me to add Australia to the database. Feel free to write me at my usual email: plains.architecture@gmail.com. Have a good day.

  6. John Denune permalink

    I go to 1st Presybterian, Newark, OH and can email interiors if you like.

    • Hello, Mr Denune: What a generous and exceptionally helpful offer. Yes, I will appreciate being able to see inside the church and confirm my suspicions about its organization. The database now has more than 2700 examples, though not all are fully verified. My email is plains.architecture@gmail.com. And thanks again.

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