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First Baptist Church

For the life of me, I can’t fathom why so many small towns bother to number their churches. Isn’t it a lot like banks? If you can’t be “first”, why bother.

Christian Scientists do it. In fact one of my favorite C.S. churches is 17th Church of Christ, Scientist in Chicago, a building of the 60’s when I was a student at the University of Oklahoma. Its architect Harry Weese has always been a favorite. [So many of these churches have closed — Christian Scientists have a notoriously low birth rate; too busy making money to make babies — that you wonder if they don’t have to renumber their congregations. Weese’s building might be #12 or #11 by now.]

17th Church of Christ, Scientist / Harry Weese, architect (1968)

As I prepare for the seminar on minimalism next semester, Weese’s 17th Church seems a good example of the directness in constructional expression that influenced my own architectural youth. And it echoes the comparable simplicity of an early 19th century Universalist church at Holland Patent, NY. This RPPC postcard view shows up often on eBay, so often I couldn’t avoid borrowing it for the Baptist church in Agincourt.

It’s astounding that the Holland Patent building still stands, though it apparently no longer serves as a place of religious fellowship. Still, its dignity fits the profile of early Agincourt and especially its carpenter-builder Amos Beddowes. From this limited documentation, do you suppose I’ll be able to abstract any of the underlying proportional principles from Holland Patent — presuming there are any, of course. I’ve been around long enough to see in it what Mrs Avery Coonley described in Frank Lloyd Wright’s work: “the countenance of principle,” a rare enough commodity these days.

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