Christ Episcopal Church by Alden B. Dow

In February of 1958 a devastating fire destroyed the stone Gothic building that served as Christ Episcopal Church in Adrian, Michigan.  Seven months later, Alden B. Dow was selected as architect and began the design of a new church that would look nothing like the structure it replaced.

As usual, he carefully studied the site upon which the new church was to be built: 

“Because the site is rather open in character and on the side of a hill, we sought to provide preparation for mind and soul by nestling a courtyard or ‘close’ into the hill and opening the main spaces into it for a restful views, with materials used simply and straightforwardly to enhance this quietude.”

Contracts for the construction of the church were signed on July 23, 1959.  Lenawee Construction Company of Adrian served as general contractor, with two additional contractors hired for the electrical as well as the plumbing and heating systems.  The total construction cost of all three contracts came to $308,165.00 for the 20,800 square foot church.

Barely rising out of a gently sloping hill, the exterior is defined by low brick walls topped by long narrow plaster friezes that accentuate the horizontality of the design.  Planter boxes along the top of the longest frieze hold greenery that serves to soften the roofline.  A chimney-style steeple, the sole vertical element, rises off to the left side.  An open landscaped courtyard lies beyond a covered walkway that provides access to the two main entrances.

One entrance leads to the sanctuary with an upper balcony and tall windows that look onto the courtyard.  The interior walls are brick and plaster; the nave ceiling is sand finished gold painted plaster.  A simple oak cross dominates a plain plaster wall behind the altar.  For visual interest, Mr. Dow designed the 58 inch tall stacked block candle holders that flank the altar.

A smaller chapel is located at the opposite side of the building through the second entrance.  Completing the first floor are a kindergarten room, social hall, and kitchen.  Although hardly noticeable from the front of the church, a second floor extends along the back and contains three classrooms and a nursery.

The dedication service and sealing of the cornerstone took place on September 14, 1960.

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