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Lawrence Bolton Valk

L. B. Valk, architect

Architectural design is, like other creative activity, difficult to protect through both the patent and trademark processes. Frank Lloyd Wright, for example, unsuccessfully attempted to patent his concrete block construction system called “textile block”, essentially because the technical aspects of the system had already been established and used by at least two other architects, one of them more than twenty years before. Wright was hardly the innovator he is popularly believed to have been, at least in this case.

The Akron-Auditorium phenomenon certainly involves innovation in the organization of spaces and the methods for their connectivity. So imagine my surprise when I found that a U.S. patent was issued to architect L. B. Valk, one of the handful of architects to dominate the A-A in publicity, if not in actual numbers of churches built. Valk applied on 04 November 1901 and Patent #723426A was issued fifteen months later on 24 March 1903. What’s really odd is that I found this on a Dutch website, (which probably accounts for the spelling errors):


Christian Church, Sciotoville, OH

Richard Kenyon has ferreted this one during a recent road trip: the Christian church in Sciotoville, Ohio, a suburb of Portsmouth on the Ohio River. There is one small interior of the sanctuary, looking toward the altar, but I wonder if this might be an example of “saddlebags” Sunday school rooms. R&B also designed Temple Baptist Church in Portsmouth, a similar “institutional” building.

The architects in 1915 were Ritter & Bates from nearby Portsmouth. For the moment I’ve only been able to find their names: Verus Taggart Ritter [1883-1942] and short-time partner R. Bates. Most of the available biographical information focusses on a later association, Ritter & Shea, who were located in Philadelphia.


Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, Orangeburg, SC


Built in 1903 from plans by architect A. W. Thorne, the Baptist church in Orangeburg, South Carolina is a good candidate for a diagonal plan.

[#3913… and within shooting distance of the elusive 4K goal]

Methodist Episcopal Church (South), Toccoa, GA

The Southern Methodists of Toccoa, Georgia have long since outgrown this building.

Methodist Episcopal Church (South), Bluefield, WV

Bland Street UMC (South) seems to have moved on from the image in this postcard view, so it may be difficult to explore its A-A potential.

Methodist Church, Elmer, NJ

Like several others in this cycle of posting, the Elmer. New Jersey UMC looks far better in google.maps view than it does here. I’ll be surprised (I often am) if this isn’t an A-A classic D-1 plan.

Methodist Episcopal Church, Spencer, IA

Compared with postcards of the finished product, this image of the Spencer, Iowa UMC is unattractive and, frankly, clumsy. See what I mean?