First Presbyterian Church of Dearborn, Michigan by Alden B. Dow

The selection of an architect for a new building for the First Presbyterian Church of Dearborn took more than a year of research by its Building Committee. Thirty-five architectural firms submitted answers to questionnaires. On January 21, 1960, the congregation approved the Committee’s choice of “a recognized leader in church design,” Alden B. Dow, as their architect.

Ground was broken for the new church in April 1963. In his design Mr. Dow used the triangular module throughout the building to reflect the Trinity of the Christian faith. Above the outside entrance stands a 26-foot tall redwood cross. Once inside, the sanctuary ceiling rises in three planes to a height of 45 feet. Within the nave the congregation is grouped around the altar; the choirs are part of the worshipers seated on the upper level and above the narthex. Side balconies architecturally unite the choir, nave, and chancel. A great white oak cross was designed by Mr. Dow and hand-fashioned by his master woodworker, Ted Gwizdala. Nave windows look out into wooded areas, while plantings at the apex of the chancel and at the nave windows emphasize unity with nature beyond the building walls.

Among the most distinctive features of the church are the many three-sided structural columns made of pre-cast concrete with a unique raised herringbone pattern on all sides. Also of particular note is the beautiful chapel with its richly textured wall of concrete blocks laid in angled beds and pierced with triangular bits of colored glass.

The Dedication Service was held January 25, 1965. For the commemorative booklet, Mr. Dow wrote, “This is a true building, designed to compliment the site and in accordance with the program of the congregation. There have never been plans such as these. This is a truly distinctive church structure which speaks with humility, compatibility, and enthusiasm.”

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