tamias6

The Churches of Grand Rapids

63 posts in this topic

Most of the talk here on the UP GR forums are of places like the new River House condos, VAI, Health Hill etc. These places do make for great conversations and marvelous picture taking as seen through out the forum. Also, we are busy talking about how many of the vintage buildings though out the city have been restored and put to new uses. They too get allot of photographic attention. This is all fine and dandy. But I believe were are ignoring some treasures that are just as much a part of GR as the Health Hill boom and the antique architecture of Heartside. I'm talking about the grand old churches that dot the city such as St. Mary's, St. Andrews, St. Adelbert's, Fountain Street Church, etc. So that in mind, its time to start a photo thread dedicated to the vintage Churches and notable Place of Worship adorning our fair city.

I'll start things off with experts from my photo shoot of St. Mary's Catholic Church. In 1857 St. Mary's parish was established to meet the spiritual needs of the local German population. The current Gothic style church building, designed by Franz G. Himpler, was built in 1873.

The church as a whole is a massive edifice that dominates Westside.

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St. Mary's majestic 200 ft. spire is the tallest church spire in the city and can be seen from miles around. Perhaps the architect took inspiration from the Ulm Cathedral, a grand gothic church located in Southern Germany.

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A shot of the choir and south transept. This view really shows off the impressive girth of this church. A second smaller spire is perched atop of the great crossing.

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Both north and south transepts are highlighted by large stain glass windows. This is the stain glass window in the south transept.

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Like traditional Gothic churches, the high walls of St. Mary's needs support from buttressing to keep them upright by counteracting the outward thrust of the vaulted ceiling inside while making possible the church's large windows.

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Gothic churches features allot of fine detail. St. Mary's is no exception.

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The semi-attached rectory differs from the church itself as it takes on an English Gothic flavor as seen here in this shot of the rectory's beautiful entrance.

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While standing within the Church close, one is constantly reminded of a higher power.

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There's a great church just west of the highway by Bridge somewhere. I've never been up to it, but from a distance it looks disused. IMO it would make a fantastic set of loft apartments, but I've been told that Michiganders would be a bit squeamish about the repurposing of a church.

Being a heathen Brit, I've no such quarms and used to live very close to a 300 year old church that had been turned into apartments in this way. The building was three stories high and each aparment had a section of the stained glass window running through it.

I'll be the lighting was fantastic!

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There's a great church just west of the highway by Bridge somewhere. I've never been up to it, but from a distance it looks disused. IMO it would make a fantastic set of loft apartments, but I've been told that Michiganders would be a bit squeamish about the repurposing of a church.

Being a heathen Brit, I've no such quarms and used to live very close to a 300 year old church that had been turned into apartments in this way. The building was three stories high and each aparment had a section of the stained glass window running through it.

I'll be the lighting was fantastic!

I believe you are speaking of Our Lady of Angola Catholic Church formerly Mission Covenant Church. I'm planning on doing a complete photo shoot of this church sometime in the future. Anyway, a developer has bought up most of the block the church sits on and plans on building row house units there. As for the church, the Developer is still debating on re-purposing the church or demolishing it.

Here's a shot of the front facade.

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Our Lady of Angola is on the market for $345,000. The MLS # is 373040.

I'd love to own it! I think the price includes the Nunnery next door.

Joe

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I believe you are speaking of Our Lady of Angola Catholic Church formerly Mission Covenant Church. I'm planning on doing a complete photo shoot of this church sometime in the future. Anyway, a developer has bought up most of the block the church sits on and plans on building row house units there. As for the church, the Developer is still debating on re-purposing the church or demolishing it.

Here's a shot of the front facade.

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That project is dead. And as Joe said, you can now buy the church and nunnery next door and re-purpose them grbrit. :)

We've also been discussing the conversion of Bethlehem Lutheran Church into condos on this board. Work is supposed to begin soon.

http://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/index.ph...st&p=705102

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Thanks for the thread tamias...

I was hoping someone would start a topic like this. I know there is a certain stigma among some around here attached to GR regarding its strong religious background but I for one am very proud of this unique historical aspect of the city. I'm not Dutch and I'm not Reformed but I do think churches and religious institutions in general are vital to a city's culture. I'll post a couple random church photos from GR and Jenison that I have.

Grand Rapids:

Jenison:

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Thanks so much for doing this. I've been wanting to ask but, it seemed like the most popular subjects are new construction. Please keep 'em coming! There is an interesting church on the West side (National Ave NW?), a Russian Orthodox Church. It's kind of small but really beautiful. If I remember correctly, it's sort of in a very old residential neighborhood. I'm partial to St. Alphonsus for more than just the architecture, also like St. Adalbert, St. Isadore and, of course, the Cathedra. I noticed (I think in the GRPL photos) a picture of the former Second Congregational on Plainfield. I wonder when that was torn down. I don't remember it at all and it looked beautiful. Anyway, great pics.

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Here's a some images from my photo shoot of St. Adalbert's Basilica. According to data posted on the Grand Rapids Diocese website, St. Adalbert's was established in 1881. The cornerstone of the present building was consecrated and laid in 1907. The style of architecture seems to be an imposing mixture of classical, Romanesque, and early Renaissance

The grandiose west facade. As seen here this gargantuan edifice is meant to dazzle and overwhelm. Outside of the skyscrapers of Downtown proper, St. Adalbert's Basilica is one of the most dominating fixtures in the city skyline.

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The three main entry portals. With doors opened at the time of the photo shoot, these entrances lead directly into the narthex . A duplicate set of entrances inside the narthex leads into the nave. The columns flanking each entry are an unusual mix of ionic and Corinthian orders.

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One of the two towers of the west facade. Here one gets a good mix of architectural styles. The windows are Romanesque while the cornices and columns are classical. Also note Doric order columns flanking the window midway up the tower while further up into the belfry one sees Ionic order columns supporting an entableture and cornice.

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The dome. Detailed in the Renaissance style, the dome is perhaps St. Adalbert's signature feature. Observe the use of details such as simplified iterations of Ionic columns flanking each window and pediments on four sides of the octagonal dome. Adorning the base of the dome are four trumpeting angels, one on each corner of the base. These details of the dome gives the impression of being in Florence Italy.

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The Corner stone of the church. The text is in Latin, the language used by the Roman Catholic Church.

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Grounds within the church close. As seen here the breezeway connecting the adjacent school building to the church gives the impression of being inside a Cloister.

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Some of many stain glass windows. The windows are my favorite features of this church as I have not been to any other church or any building one is able to see the artwork of stain glass from outside.

A window on the south wall of the nave.

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One of a collection of windows in the asp.

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The Rose Window and Lancet Windows. Making an appearance in Romanesque and Gothic Churches, the rose window is a symbolic reference to the Virgin Mary.

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A set of windows at the base of the south tower.

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Lastly here's a shot of the asp (right), south transept (left), and the dome. In keeping to Roman basilicas and Early Christian Churches, St. Adelbert's, features a simple asp, a space where the alter is located. In Gothic churches the asp was developed into a larger and more complex space known as the choir. St. Mary's Catholic Church and St. Andrew's Cathedral feature Choirs. In very large churches such as the great Gothic Cathedrals of Europe, further elaborations added ambulatories, chevettes, and radiating chapels to the choir.

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Thanks so much for doing this. I've been wanting to ask but, it seemed like the most popular subjects are new construction. Please keep 'em coming! There is an interesting church on the West side (National Ave NW?), a Russian Orthodox Church. It's kind of small but really beautiful. If I remember correctly, it's sort of in a very old residential neighborhood. I'm partial to St. Alphonsus for more than just the architecture, also like St. Adalbert, St. Isadore and, of course, the Cathedra. I noticed (I think in the GRPL photos) a picture of the former Second Congregational on Plainfield. I wonder when that was torn down. I don't remember it at all and it looked beautiful. Anyway, great pics.

The former Second Congregational Church on Plainfield just north of Leonard was torn down in the 1970s, I believe. It was built in 1900 and was supplanted by a brick Georgian structure in 1950 located on Cheshire Drive, just west of Plainfield. (That building also is quite attractive.)

This is a great thread, if no other reason than the finest architecture in GR may be in its churches. I would personally much rather see pictures of these great buildings than another shot of one of the pill hill medical buildings, which have, IMHO, the architectural interest of a filing cabinet.

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I do agree that GR's churches are among the finest examples of good architecture the city has to offer. Not only that most if not all the fundamental principals of architecture were greatly influenced by religious structures. Classical architecture came from Greek temples. Allot of Art deco was inspired by Egyptian temples. Gothic Architecture arose from Western Latin Churches. So forth. On that note I believe that anybody that expresses an interest in architecture should first take a look at religious structures, ancient and modern. For an obvious example of how religious structures influence architecture, first take a good look at Fountain Street Church and then compare the AT&T building to it. Both are beautiful examples of the Romanesque Style. Just loose that ugly 60's addition on AT&T's northern flank.

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I'm not sure if it's been mentioned, but there's a church, I believe Catholic, near John Ball Zoo on the corner of Garfield and Park. Instead of angels and gargoyles on the roof, there are heads wearing bowler hats. I've been by the building many times but only noticed the heads after a long, hard run. Thought I was hallucinating. They are pretty sweet.

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I'm not sure if it's been mentioned, but there's a church, I believe Catholic, near John Ball Zoo on the corner of Garfield and Park. Instead of angels and gargoyles on the roof, there are heads wearing bowler hats. I've been by the building many times but only noticed the heads after a long, hard run. Thought I was hallucinating. They are pretty sweet.

It sounds like Sacred Heart, an historically Polish parish whose church was built in the 1920s.

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Again, thanks, tamias6. Beautiful photos of St. Adalbert's. LA Dave, we moved to GR in 1961, went to Creston HS, attended (on occasion) 2nd Congregational on Cheshire. I can't believe I don't remember seeing that old church. I've had a strong interest in architecture since early childhood. Somehow, that one slipped right by me. thanks for the info.

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If you get a chance get some shots of the interior of the Calvin College chapel. It's not much to look at from the outside, but I was really taken with the interior.

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I do agree that GR's churches are among the finest examples of good architecture the city has to offer. Not only that most if not all the fundamental principals of architecture were greatly influenced by religious structures. Classical architecture came from Greek temples. Allot of Art deco was inspired by Egyptian temples. Gothic Architecture arose from Western Latin Churches. So forth. On that note I believe that anybody that expresses an interest in architecture should first take a look at religious structures, ancient and modern. For an obvious example of how religious structures influence architecture, first take a good look at Fountain Street Church and then compare the AT&T building to it. Both are beautiful examples of the Romanesque Style. Just loose that ugly 60's addition on AT&T's northern flank.

I don't want to get off track here...just trying to remember. Is what you call the AT&T building the old Bell Telephone building across Fountain from the Keeler Building?

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Again, thanks, tamias6. Beautiful photos of St. Adalbert's. LA Dave, we moved to GR in 1961, went to Creston HS, attended (on occasion) 2nd Congregational on Cheshire. I can't believe I don't remember seeing that old church. I've had a strong interest in architecture since early childhood. Somehow, that one slipped right by me. thanks for the info.

Good to hear from you. The old church was owned by an evangelical denomination of some sort, and I think that it was also the headquarters of the old Children's Bible Hour, a radio program. The church was not that large, and not all that distinguished, IMHO. It looked like a lot of other Protestant churches built around the turn of the 20th century.

There are several distinguished Congregational churches in GR, including First (Park) Congregational, which features an incredible Tiffany west window and great wood carving; East Congregational, which features a beautiful chapel; and Mayflower Congregational, which is a large Georgian brick structure with an imposing steeple. The number of Congregational churches is a function of the fact that the earliest English-speaking settlers of GR were New England Yankees who had migrated west first to New York and then to Michigan during the 1830s.

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PR SC: I was right about the Children's Bible Hour. They were at that location beginning in 1949 and for a number of years thereafter. It turns out that the old Second Congregational Church was torn down in 1967, so it is not surprising that you don't remember it.

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If you get a chance get some shots of the interior of the Calvin College chapel. It's not much to look at from the outside, but I was really taken with the interior.

I remember attending free weekly organ recitals at Calvin Chapel years ago. I believe they were held every Thursday. The organ itself is a small 2 manual 30 rank tracker action instrument. But its sound was colorful, dynamic and very powerful. I miss those recitals . Does anybody know if Calvin College chapel still holds organ recitals?

Edited by tamias6

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Thanks for starting this thread tamias...I have been wanting start a topic like this for a while, but never got around to taking pictures. I have often thought that progress in the form of new buildings is wonderful, but it is also good and important to take a look at the structures of the past and that still bind our community together (for better or for worse...GR is still a very religioius city) to this day. Also, IMHO, our Churches include some of the best examples of local architecture.

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If you get a chance get some shots of the interior of the Calvin College chapel. It's not much to look at from the outside, but I was really taken with the interior.

This is a picture of the church's organ I pulled from the 'net.

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This a colorized photograph of St. Mark's dating back to 1913 I pulled from the 'net

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According to the Church's website, the building underwent several renovations throughout it's history. At the time of this photo the church had a stucco covering. I'm glad the stucco has been long since removed exposing the great looking stone work we see today.

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I have got to start remembering to keep my camera in the car!!!!

No pictures to add here, but I do think this thread merits inclusion of some of the contemporary churches in our area as well.

One that comes to mind is the beautifully sloped roof on the church near the northwest corner of Burton and Plymouth. As a kid, I always thought it would be great to toboggan down the roof in the winter. I got a peek inside during one of my GRCC art/architecture classes back in the 70's. The interior is equally spectacular.

While not in GR, the concrete Catholic church in Muskegon (name escapes me right now) is nationally renowned for its contemporary design).

While I am not fond of the addition in recent years, the Catholic church on Ada Drive is another interesting example of modern design. The interior of the original sanctuary has a beautiful tongue/groove ceiling that gracefully curves continuously from low to high.

While not impressive at first glance, my own church (Our Savior Lutheran at 2900 Burton) is a decent example of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's long tradition of collaborating with contemporary architects. This church (which won a few architectural awards when it was built in the early 60's) is tastefully minimalist inside and now, thanks to the vast talents of Ed Riojas (GR Press artist), its interior is wrapped by a continuous mural depicting the Te Deum found in Lutheran liturgy.

An even greater example of great contemporary Lutheran architecture can be seen at Concordia Lutheran Seminary in Ft Wayne IN. The primary chapel there was done by Ero Saronen (sp?). A great work of minimalist 1960s design.

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Good to hear from you. The old church was owned by an evangelical denomination of some sort, and I think that it was also the headquarters of the old Children's Bible Hour, a radio program. The church was not that large, and not all that distinguished, IMHO. It looked like a lot of other Protestant churches built around the turn of the 20th century.

There are several distinguished Congregational churches in GR, including First (Park) Congregational, which features an incredible Tiffany west window and great wood carving; East Congregational, which features a beautiful chapel; and Mayflower Congregational, which is a large Georgian brick structure with an imposing steeple. The number of Congregational churches is a function of the fact that the earliest English-speaking settlers of GR were New England Yankees who had migrated west first to New York and then to Michigan during the 1830s.

Thanks so much! The "New England Yankees" comment made me laugh...I was born in Massachusetts! I've been inside a number of churches and a Synagogue in GR but, for some reason, never seen the Congregational churches other than 2nd.

Edited by pr sc

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While not in GR, the concrete Catholic church in Muskegon (name escapes me right now) is nationally renowned for its contemporary design).

Commonly known to Muskegon natives (at least in my dad's generation) as "Our Lady of Concrete."

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Commonly known to Muskegon natives (at least in my dad's generation) as "Our Lady of Concrete."

Known also as St. Francis de Sales and one of the few brutalist works that I like. Maybe because it was done by the master of brutalism, Marcel Breuer.

The "ski slope" church at Plymouth and Burton is Immaculate Heart of Mary. I attended Mass there in September -- the interior looks like it is being worked on, so it was a little underwhelming.

Though not a church, add to the lexicon of great West Michigan religious structures Temple Emmanuel on East Fulton, one of the last works by the great German modernist Erich Mendelsohn.

I also like St. Jude's in Northeast GR. I don't know the architect. Also, Trinity Lutheran at the intersection of East Fulton and Cascade Drive SE -- nice mid-century modernist interpretation.

Thanks so much! The "New England Yankees" comment made me laugh...I was born in Massachusetts! I've been inside a number of churches and a Synagogue in GR but, for some reason, never seen the Congregational churches other than 2nd.

What GR doesn't have is the traditional white clapboard New England Congregational church so famous from the tourist postcards. There may be such churches elsewhere in Michigan. For example, visit Vermontville, not far from Battle Creek, and you think you have been transported 700 miles east, right down to the village green. Also Stockbridge, located north of Jackson. The Yankees brought their architecture and their ideas of village planning with them.

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