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Methodist Episcopal Church, Cuba, NY

The modest building on this postcard has already become a problem.

Cuba, New York is a small community with just three Protestant churches—Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian—but the current Methodist building is clearly a 19th century “Italianate” design, whereas this card shows a somewhat newer building. With those reservations, it is still an example—regardless where it may have been—of an A-B-a-b scheme.

Baptist Church, Sarnia, ON

The Baptist church in Sarnia (now gone) and the Methodist church are remarkably similar in style and architectural detail. In this case, I can’t tell what the interior may have been but it seems worth pursuing.

M. E. Church, Newton Center, MA

The inventors of the A-A plan and its most prolific proponents constitute a list of unfamiliar names. Whether local one-time designers, regional practitioners, or architects with a national clientele, the starchitects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries are not among them. Louis Sullivan’s M.E. church at Cedar Rapids has an exemplary auditorium, but its wing for religious education bears no resemblance to an Akron plan. Unity Temple in Oak Park can be construed as an F-1, putting it at the fringe of Akron-icity.  So, I’ve become intensely curious about a church by renowned Gothic Revivalists Cram Wentworth & Goodhue: a former Methodist Episcopal church at Newton Center, MA.

Aside from its Churrigueresque style, the form is (or seems to be; I have yet to find a published plan) a simple Greek Cross with the re-entrant angles filled with entries and, possibly, stairs. So a simple square rises to become the Greek Cross and that to an octagonal dome. Eliminate the historically-based ornament and the massing becomes Unity Temple. What interests me today is the subsidiary portion peeking out at the left rear. What encourages me to imagine it as Akron is another design proposal from another architect, which is clearly A-A.

Unbuilt competitive design for M. E. Church, Newton Center, MA (1898)

Seeking additional information to satisfy my curiosity, I found that the church has been secularized and converted to condominium units.


Methodist Episcopal Church, Wyoming, ON

A mystery.

Identified only as “Wyoming Methodist Church, Erected 1917,” this has evaded any further identification. The eBay seller put it in Wyoming, Ontario, part of the jurisdiction of Plympton-Wyoming (pop. 7500), a binary town about fifteen miles east of Sarnia. But there is no postmark confirming that. Neither Plympton nor Wyoming seem large enough to have garnered such a substantial building.

First Methodist Episcopal Church, Syracuse, NY

This M.E. church burned in January 1957 and was replaced within a few years by a Mid-Century Modern design by Clark Clark Millis & Gibson—a new name to me. The website identifying that church mentions its predecessor, which I presume to be the building in this card. If so, then it was constructed about 1904 from the design of Archimedes Russell. The site was incredibly tight at the 45° intersection of Onondaga and State streets in central Syracuse—hence the octagonal bay. So tight, perhaps, that the Sunday school was situated in the lower level. The congregation merged with Erwin UMC, about a mile away, and that website mentions nothing about the former building.

Archimedes Russell is a name well known in Central New York. Shortly after the date of this building, Russell took on Melvin King as a younger partner; if King were already in the office as draughtsman, he may well have been the designer.

Methodist Episcopal Church, Brantford, ON

There were several architects in southern Ontario and on this side of Lake Erie or in Detroit who were renowned for A-A churches. Knox & Elliott, for example, maintained office in both Toronto and Cleveland. Native Canadian architects, on the other hand, are a mystery. Some recent acquisitions are helping to fill that gap.

The M.E. church in Brantford, Ontario was the work of local architect George William Hall [1852-1935], who, as you can see, lived a long life that was apparently focused on religious commissions. The building dates from 1903.

Methodist Episcopal Church, Colborne, ON

It’s refreshing (and quite unusual) to find Canadian examples among the postcards on the auction site that dare not speak its name. These last two or three weeks yielded four or five—not all of which are posted yet.

Here is the Methodist church in Colborne, Ontario, about a third the distance between Toronto and Montréal. The architect in 1900-1901 was Marshall Benjamin Aylesworth [1950-1911]. The two principal elements, auditorium and Sunday school, are clearly expressed as gables along the building’s left side. Interior photos haven’t been located, but the entry is unusual indeed: